Tansi, my name is Rose McLeod; I am from Kinosao Sipi also known as Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.
The reason for writing this article is to tell you the truth. The truth about the messengers who ran for the Residential School Survivors; who they are and what they set out to accomplish. The truth about the ‘formal apology’ from the Government of Canada. I believe this is the right time for this article to be read by everyone.
This is how the story begins...
One summer day in June of 2005, I heard about some runners who were making their way from Northern Manitoba, to Winnipeg, then on to Ottawa.
Their reason being that they were on their way to deliver a message to the Prime Minister; to tell him that our elders wanted an apology from the Government of Canada for the atrocities they suffered from the residential schools.
I met the runners in Winnipeg at the Legislative Building and listened to what they had to say. Suddenly a strong feeling came over me and told me that I had to join them the rest of the way. So off we went...
Along the way we stopped at various First Nations who were kind and hospitable towards us. We ran in relays for three days on, then one day break in between. This was very emotional on everyone because the people we met along the way shared their experiences at the residential schools. This run was bringing out everyone’s true state of mind and it was also like a test. Testing our physical, mental, and spiritual state; some were strong, some were weak. Some of us wanted to go home, others wanted to keep on going. Because of this our group became divided.
Then a little over half way to our destination Phil Fontaine sent two of his people to catch up with us. Phil Fontaine was the Grand Chief for the Assembly of First Nations at the time. The Assembly of First Nations had no idea that we were doing this run until we were almost to Ottawa. We were just a bunch of grassroots people that were doing what our elders requested of us.
Near the end of the journey some of us stayed and strayed. The ones that stayed we made it to Ottawa on June 21, 2005. There the Prime Minister requested to see us. He said that he heard we were coming and that his people were trying to find us on the road. They had a hard time trying to catch up with us.
So it was arranged, we met Paul Martin at the museum across the river from Parliament Hill.
We met - suddenly a crowd and media swarmed us and pushed back his security. We had our moment- I shook his hand and told him that our elders were waiting for an apology from the Government of Canada for the suffering they experienced while in the residential schools.
The elders wanted this so they could heal. A lot of these elders were getting old and were dying. They wanted this done before they passed on.
So Paul Martin agreed to this request and had a chance to speak with two elders that joined us along the way.
Remember this was June 2005. Three years later, June 2008, the new Prime Minister, Steven Harper announces that the Government of Canada will make a formal apology to the residential school survivors.
So Phil Fontaine gladly accepted this apology. Keep in mind the Assembly of First Nations really had nothing to do with our group of runners who originally had requested the apology on behalf of the elders.
An apology means fixing what you have wronged. The Government of Canada has to fix what they tried to destroy and steal from us indigenous people here. A few examples would be to return our lands that would allow us to manage our own affairs and implement the real history of the Indigenous peoples of this land in the education system.
For the record I would like to acknowledge those young men I ran with; the ones that accomplished our goal to deliver the message to the Prime Minister for our residential school survivors. If it wasn’t for them none of our people would have received the apology. I want the world to know what they have done for our people. I would also like to thank the Creator for watching and guiding us through our journey. If anything, those young men are examples of what a true warrior is. I hope you guys see this and know that what you did was great and it will always be remembered, you all know who you are. Ekosani!