Day Three, rain and more rain, all day, and the large commissioner’s tent deserted because of the sogginess and the sharing circle moved into a room at the theatre building at the Forks.
The miserable weather affected attendance and some pieces of the event had to be cancelled. I don’t know whether it’s a cultural thing or just the underlying sombre nature of the event itself lending perspective, but I didn’t hear a single complaint about it, however. I was struck by this, it seemed so unusual. The only one who mentioned the rain, in fact, was a woman in the sharing circle, and she said she was thankful because it was adding tears to the sorrow of memories. And, said another, “we have many tears to shed.”
I was happy that H. could take some time from work and come with me. I would describe to him when I came home what I was seeing and hearing these days, but it’s different actually experiencing it together. We spent several hours witnessing the sharing circle, and also watched a new play by Ian Ross called “Fabric of the Sky.” The play was about a man who had not been a good father to his son because of his residential school experiences. Then as he finally opened up about it, the gap between him and his son began to close.
The point of the play could hardly be missed and so it felt a little didactic, but still, it was well done, and the point does need emphasizing. We’d heard so much of that in the stories: as children finally learn and began to understand what their parents have gone through, they begin to understand and even forgive the ways in which they have also been damaged by their parents’ lack of love and other behaviours.
Day Four — today — and a lovely day, clear and sunny. I returned to the Forks for a few more hours of listening, this time to some conversation in the interfaith tent: “signs of reconciliation and reflecting on our experiences.” There were more than a few interesting moments here.
One of the participants in the panel discussion was a Japanese man who had been involved in the redress movement in his community. In the discussion that followed, an aboriginal man who is also the head of a B.C. native fisherman’s association, apologized for how his people had gotten — cheaply — boats and other material goods that were confiscated from Japanese fishermen when they were interned in the second world war.
Another man, Jim Dumont, a teacher of traditional native ways, said to the church representatives, “If it [the Indian residential school past] doesn’t make you angry, there’s something wrong with you…. I always felt, coming towards the interfaith tent, there wasn’t enough fervour. It’s like you want to sedate us.”
Mid-afternoon was the start of a traditional powwow, and it’s still going on, and will be until the closing ceremonies and fireworks later this evening. For me, it was time to get home and give my rain and sun soaked flowerbeds some attention. But I did hear Governor General Michaelle Jean speak encouraging words (she’s taken a particular interest in this issue), and also Commissioner Murray Sinclair give Her Excellency his report of what had transpired these days. More than 25,000 people participated in the various events, he said, some dozens spoke their stories publicly, and more than 1,000 gave video statements in private, all of which will be gathered for the national research centre that will follow the TRC’s work.
Justice Sinclair now talked about the weather, how fitting it had been. The opening day with sunshine, and “then Mother Earth cleansing us with wind and rain while telling our sorrow and stories” and now the sunshine again, for the final celebration. He also remarked on the eagle that appeared as the opening prayers were spoken that afternoon, circling overhead, a sacred sign that “our words have been taken to the Creator.” You must realize that it’s a rare thing to see an eagle in the city. I’m sure Justice Sinclair is right; this was no coincidence.