A Grand Forks woman is organizing a demonstration of Indigenous healing, solidarity and strength to be held Thursday, July 1.
Victoria Runge, a Cree woman descended from the Onion Lake First Nation (FN), is calling on participants to wear orange when they gather at City Park’s riverside parking lot at 8:30 a.m. The procession will then loop its way up Market Avenue, winding up back at the park, where Runge said, “we’ll say a few words” in honour of “our children recovered and for those children waiting to be recovered in the days and months yet to come.”
Next Thursday’s demonstration comes roughly a week after the Cowessess FN announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school near Regina, Sask.
It will be the second demonstration in just over a month Runge has put together on behalf of the Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC). Grand Forks residents will no doubt remember the drumming circle she and other Indigenous and Métis elders held at Gyro Park on May 30, shortly after 215 unmarked graves were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Runge said the procession will wrap up at around 10 a.m., just in time for the start of the city’s Canada Day parade.
“I have mixed feelings (about the parade),” she told The Gazette Thursday, June 25. “I don’t think people should be punished because of these recent events,” she continued.
But Runge said she couldn’t ignore the “great sadness” she felt in her heart. “I’m waiting to see when they’ll dig up bodies” at the residential schools her mother was forced to attend in the 1940s and ’50s, she said.
She’d felt angry, too. “People knew what was happening at those schools,” she noted.
Parade organizer Beverly Osachoff said she’d considered scrapping next Thursday’s festivities.
“We’ve had a few calls from people who thought that celebrating Canada Day would be inappropriate at this time. And I hear them,” she told The Gazette.
Referring to the recent discoveries as “an unspeakable sadness,” she said the parade would stop for a moment of silence in front of Grand Forks’ Hutton Elementary School.
“I would invite anyone who’s feeling that grief that we’re all sharing now to take a moment and join us in the event,” she said.
Meanwhile, Runge stressed that while she probably would not attend, she’s “not here to stop (the parade).”
— with files from Canada Press