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Elder noticing shift as Grande Prairie marks second Day for Truth and Reconciliation

A local elder believes progress is being made when it comes to truth and reconciliation in Grande Prairie. On the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Elder Loretta Parenteau-English says she has seen a “really large shift” since this time last year.

“I’ve noticed a lot of the institutions in Grande Prairie, the companies, well really the community itself going forward in reconciliation, learning about the history, doing events that represent reconciliation in their own way and making a change without their own organisations and I think that is very positive.”

Parenteau-English singles out the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital as well as the newly rebranded Northwestern Polytechnic as moving forward and embracing connections with the Indigenous community. At the helm, she says, is the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre.

“Their movement has grown, I feel like, almost three-fold to where they’re going forward and continuing to embrace whatever is around them within the community. to go in partnership with other different companies or different individuals just to make change and bring an awareness.”

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The Friendship Centre hosted its second annual Orange Shirt Day 5K walk/run Friday, following Truth and Reconciliation events put on by the Veterans Memorial Gardens & Interpretive Centre and the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services. Hundreds surrounded the Muskoseepi Park amphitheatre to hear from residential school survivors and take in traditional drumming and dancing.

Part of the crowd at a Truth and Reconciliation Day event in Muskoseepi Park (Erica Fisher, staff)

The large-scale event also included information booths from many agencies that work with the local Indigenous community. Parenteau-English says reaching out to them is a great place to start for someone who wants to engage with truth and reconciliation.

“If you want to make change or get involved, do your research. What does Grande Prairie have? What organisations are out there? Go to those organisations, ask questions, become involved. I think that’s the key in doing that research; it brings success, it makes things change if you are aware of the resources around you.”

A sculpture in honour of Indigenous children who didn’t come home from residentials schools installed at the Blossoming Garden of Hope (Erica Fisher, staff)

Friday also marked the installation of a sculpture at the under-construction Blossoming Garden of Hope at Maskwôtêh Park meant to honour and acknowledge the thousands of children who didn’t make it home from residential schools. Designed by artist Grant Berg and built by Alessio Zilli, the seven star cluster is based on the Indigenous belief that when we are born we come from the stars and when we pass that is where we return.

The final event of the day will be a grand entry to start the PBR Peace Country Invitational at Bonnetts Energy Centre.

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