A time to remember. A time to heal.
Under the watchful eyes of elders Grace Greyeyes and hereditary chief Adam Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band, members of the Penticton Secondary School BC First Nations 12 class and others put the first plants in the ground in phase one of the School District 67 Reconciliation Garden this week.
According to Pen High principal Alan Stel the idea for the garden surfaced when the class was reading the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action report about ways to contribute to reconciliation.
“I think today what we are doing is very important because we’re coming up on a 150 years of Canada and we have to think back about how Canada was colonized and the treatment of the First Nations People,” said class member Sierra Simpson. “I don’t think it’s all fair the way our First Nations People were treated and it’s important that we remember that in moving forward and try to reconcile.”
Land claims issues, the horrors of the residential schools, aboriginal child health and welfare and just the basic rights of indigenous peoples were just a few of the areas covered in the report produced by Truth and Reconciliation Commission Canada.
“Reconciliation is righting a wrong, I don’t what to see you have to be in that position. You have to stand positive to continue your lives to act in a fashion where you don’t have to be in any situation where you have to reconcile with somebody,” Eneas told the class. “Your parents, our parents our grandparents had different ideas about inter-racial relationships. I think if you keep your eyes and your minds and your hearts open and be willing to treat other people as you treated yourselves, there will be no need to plant any more gardens of reconciliation because you’ll be living a good life.”
Greyeyes too believes by remembering and learning about the things that happened can change the actions of the future.
“Talk to grandparents let them tell their stories to you and really recognize what went on in their lives when they were struggling to survive,” she said. “Understand so you don’t follow their footsteps in history.”
Both elders were grateful for the planting of the garden with native species.
“We looked after the land, we cared for the land,” said Eneas.
Added Greyeyes: “Seasons came and went they (ancestors) travelled, they travelled to White Lake in the spring, they’d start moving to different parts of the Okanagan Valley where they’re fishing, where they’re hunting, where they’re gathering berries and roots and they just followed the seasons.”
The garden is a co-operative effort between the school, the District Aboriginal Team and the Penticton Indian Band.
According to Stel the garden will be added to in phases over the next three years with the goal of involving as many groups as possible.