Iqaluit streets turn orange during inaugural reconciliation walk

Around 300 people commemorated the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at downtown gathering

Jack Anawak, a longtime Nunavut politician and residential school survivor, leads a walk in Iqaluit to commemorate the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

A crowd of about 300 Iqaluit residents wearing orange shirts gathered on the streets Thursday to commemorate the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Among them was veteran Nunavut politician Jack Anawak, a former member of Parliament, who stood in front of the Igluvut Building holding an orange flag.

Anawak said that finding this past summer of unmarked graves of children at the sites of former residential schools is going to have a serious impact on truth and reconciliation.

“All the [issues] we have been trying to tell the government over the last number of years, I think they will now take it seriously,” Anawak said.

A residential school survivor himself, Anawak said the government tried to take away his Inuit language and culture in that system.

“Fortunately, it didn’t work.”

Aluki Kotierk, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., speaks to the crowd at Iqaluit’s Igluvut Building. (Photo courtesy of David Lochead)

Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Olayuk Akesuk and NTI president Aluki Kotierk both also addressed the crowd with brief speeches.

After speaking about the locating of unmarked graves and trauma of residential schools, Kotierk told the crowd to grab country food being given at the end of the walk as a way of recognizing their Inuit identities.

“We are still here, we are still proud, we still love our food and we are still Inuit,” Kotierk said as the crowd clapped for a round of applause.

After the speeches, a moment of silence was held. Then Anawak took his flag and led the crowd down Queen Elizabeth Way, with a wave of orange following him.

The crowd then walked by Northmart and filed into Iqaluit Square, where country food was given out.

Afterwards, as the sun peaked over the city, around 80 people lingered in the square to talk.

Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, gave orange lapels to commemorate the day.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, hands out orange pins to mark the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (Photo by David Lochead)

Obed said today he thinks of all the Inuit who went to residential schools and had suffered throughout the rest of their lives or never survived.

For the next steps, Obed said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples legislation that was passed in the previous federal government needs to be implemented.

Finally, Obed said this day is also about celebrating being Inuit and the future, as the ability to have their language, culture and land remain after the actions of residential schools is “nothing short of remarkable.”

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by 300?? on

    Were we at the same event? There was way more than 300 people in that crowd. There was easily 1200+

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    • Posted by Pain In The Groen on

      I agree. I don’t know why crowd size is always underreported. They even ran out of t-shirts. There was most certainly a few hundred more than they are saying here.

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      • Posted by Kanuwipit on

        At CBC North, it says that that they were close to 1,000 people.

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  2. Posted by S on

    Was the walk a fundraiser, like the old-school Terry Fox Walks?

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    • Posted by Wtf on

      Seriously, if you have to ask that question you really have to do a bit of research about orange shirt day and residential schools

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      • Posted by UberTroll on

        ‘S’ knows better, but throws comments like this around to express his / her malcontent that a day like this is being recognized in the first place.

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  3. Posted by Stepphenwolf on

    For the most part we measure events in a life time. That is short, much of the residential school program has faded away, that only the elderly remember and it buffers the deep damage that has been done. Time heals but only when we know and to learn from history, from the past. That is so important. To do less is to set ourselves and future generations on ground to repeat the wrongs, to not mend and not heal.

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