I seek out the First Nations’ village at every Stampede. Dancing, bannock, history lessons, artistry are what I look forward to. This year, I visited in the midst of the heart-wrenching release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s (TRC) damning report regarding the residential schools that kidnapped Canada’s First Nation children, renamed them, refused them of speaking their native tongue, performed experiments on their little bodies, and for 30-60% of the children, created conditions of sickness and abuse that killed them.

The TRC is a report that can’t be read without tears, hard numbers of children killed with one journalist commenting that the odds of making it out alive from a residential school was lower than that of a soldier returning alive from World War II.

With all that in mind, and my own child at my side, I had such a sadness as I entered. My little boy is the same age as the children that were taken and as I looked around, knowing that the last residential school was closed in 1998, I wondered which of the First Nations people here had once been that wee child, whisked away by RCMP away from their family? I felt that shadow as I walked around, showing my son inside the tipis, admiring the depth of beauty of past and current beadwork and ceremony. The spirit of joy and laughter, pride and love, that always emanates from dancers and drums soon shook loose that dark shadow and I hope for the future, that generations of people pushed down will rise up, reconciliation can be had, and the spirits of the people prove to be unbeatable.

Graceful, gorgeous, and proud. Traditional Dancer at Treaty 7 Calgary Stampede Indian