PICTOU LANDING FIRST NATION — A chill in the air and the scent of sage from a smudging tradition hung about last week as a crowd gathered to mark the unveiling of a new memorial in Pictou Landing First Nation. Near the middle of town, in front of the health centre, the memorial to remember PLFN’s residential school survivors was unveiled to the community.
“It meant a lot to me and my sister Mary,” said Jennie Stevens, a residential school survivor from the community. As a part of reconciliation the community, as well as a group of those who had been to the schools, called Pictou Landing Survivors, wanted to remember those who had been forced to attend the schools.
“For a long time our people were mistreated and marginalized,” she said. Stevens added that she had spent a year at a residential school because her mother was sick in 1953-54. Stevens said that her mother was also a survivor of the schools.
After the monument unveiling, living survivors read out each of the names on the monument as children from the Pictou Landing Elementary School and high school students from the community laid orange carnations at the base of the monument. Orange is the colour that marks the cause.
“It serves as a reminder that every day we do better for our children,” said PLFN Chief Andrea Paul about the significance of the monument. “It’s about keeping our cultures.”
She added that being able to have the children at the unveiling as well as keeping them in the community at their own school just added to it because they are able to help keep their culture in their community and school.