People gathered to sing, dance, drum, pray and cry for residential school survivors during this crosswalk’s unveiling on Sept 16.
The orange crosswalk is near the statue of Queen Victoria at Water St. and Jubilee Dr. in Kitchener. It features art by grade 12 student Geraldine Catalbas, who travelled from Alberta to attend the unveiling ceremony.
Many of the hundreds of attendees were local school children with teachers and classmates, most wearing orange and some leaving shoes on the Queen’s statue. The event involved prayer, music, dancing, and speeches from survivors, elders, and community leaders.
“We want change, and we are your voices to say we believe you, and you matter,” says Sheena Merling, or Bin-no-g Man-na-doe Quay (Spirit of the Children), who initiated the grassroots organizing for the crosswalk and partnered with the Orange Shirt Society to put it into action. They plan for it to be the first of many.
“The orange shirts that I see coming around me in the circles that were formed, words can’t describe the warmth that I felt today,” says Bin-no-g Man-na-doe Quay.
Ben Willsteed, or Animikii Binesi Wuhnini, firekeeper at Crow Shield Lodge, supported Merling in hosting the ceremony. “She asked me to be with her in this journey to show support and balance with her, and I couldn’t be more proud of what she’s done here.”
“It’s a reminder to just like sit, and reflect, and ask those questions that are sometimes hard to answer,” says Animikii Binesi Wuhnini. “Just seeing the crosswalk down from the Queen and the shoes that are laid on the Queen’s statue is a good indication that we need to teach our younger generation about what happened so that they can be the change for the next generation, right?”
Bin-no-g Man-na-doe Quay also shared many encouraging, inspiring words for attendees. “Think about your community, the change you want to make. Each and every single one of you are given gifts.”
The event began at noon and continued until after three, though most of the crowd dispersed before two, leaving a more intimate group to move from the open field to the crosswalk for the ribbon cutting.
“A crosswalk is a place where we walk across and make sure there’s no cars and we get to the other side, right? What is the other side? The other side is each other, it’s learning each other’s stories, connecting with each other.”