By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Prince Albert Indian and Métis Friendship Centre is hosting an event towards reconciliation this week at the Ches Leach Lounge in the Art Hauser Centre.

Legacy and Reconciliation: The Next Step to Healing began Monday and runs until Nov. 9. Marcel Lerat of the Prince Albert Indian and Métis Friendship Centre said the event is about Residential Schools and the stories told by students who attended them.

“So many of the people nowadays are residential school survivors, are products of the environment,” Lerat said. “I myself, I went to the day school and my whole family are products (of it). My mother, my grandmother, all my aunts all attended Bret Boarding School in southern Saskatchewan, so a lot of it is to be able to get our story out to hear our story out there. Sometimes we walk with so much pain and hurt from everything that has happened to us over the years because we hear so many people say, ‘oh, just get over it’. How do you get over it? You can’t get over it.”

Lerat said reconciliation can’t happen without understanding. He views events like this one as a chance to for people to learn about and understand the experiences Indigenous people have had.

“This is basically understanding where it comes from and where it was,” he explained. “The path that leads to more reconciliation is not only for ourselves. But also for other communities, to understand what we went through.”

The day opened with remarks from dignitaries including Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, local MLA Alana Ross, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) area director Sherry McLennan, Prince Albert Police Service Chief Jonathan Bergen, Deputy Police Chief Farica Prince and Janet Carriere of the Prince Albert Indian Métis Friendship Centre.

On Monday morning there was a Kairos Blanket Exercise by the Yorkton representatives. The Keynote speaker for the day was Jennifer Sanderson.

Lerat explained that the event is three days of speakers and workshops.

“There is Jennifer Sanderson and then we have some side rooms where the Elders are teaching birch bark biting,” he said. “That’s a way that we can (teach) our youth, because many of our youth are on a misguided route. This is one way of showing them how we can get back to where our roots are and that’s part of the reconciliation: finding back where we come from.”

Other speakers on Monday included Ricky Tourangeau and Linus Kaysaywaysement with a mini Round Dance to end the day.

“Reconciliation, it’s getting back to your culture,” Lerat said. “So many of our youth nowadays they are misguided and getting back to our youth and our culture is showing them that, so they get a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding and where they come from. It opens so many doors for them.”

Lerat explained that they are expecting around 200 people but this weekend’s winter storm caused some issues.

“We are expecting people coming from all around the community and there is people coming from as far away as Yorkton. Some arrived from Yorkton and some from La Ronge and there is some from Little Red, but like we mentioned the weather it plays a really heavy part,” Lerat said.

The Keynote speaker on Tuesday morning is Prince Albert business owner Cody Demarais. Other presenters on Tuesday include Tyler Sakebow, Grace Aisican, Dakota Favel, Jennifer Lenny and Alex Powlinshy. The entertainment on Tuesday evening is Favel and his line up.

Wednesday’s Keynote Speaker is Brock Fourstar at 9:30 a.m. The final presenter is Terrance Whitehead before closing remarks at 1 p.m. to conclude the conference.

“This is the first time the Friendship Centre is initiating it,” Lerat said. “We took the forefront, (and) we want to thank Mariah Martin for spearheading it all.”

(Top Photo: Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Jennifer Sanderson was the Keynote Speaker on the first day of Legacy and Reconciliation: The Next Step to Healing at the Ches Leach Lounge in the Art Hauser Centre on Monday.)