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N.S. students plant orange flags on the site of former residential school ahead of Truth and Reconciliation Day

More than 500 students from four schools joined the Sipekne’katik community to place orange flags in the shape of a heart on the site of the former Shubenacadie Residential School.

Students from Shubenacadie District Elementary, Riverside Educational Centre, Hants East Rural High School, and L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom school joined with community members at the Shubenacadie Hillside and placed 15,000 orange flags, reclaiming the solemn ground where the residential school once stood.

The event that coincides with the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Day is aimed at offering the community a beacon of healing on the ground that’s tied to Canada’s residential school history.

For students like Sydney Mason, each flag she planted in the soil is for everyone who experienced life with residential schools, she said.

“I was thinking about all the people who have passed, who didn’t get to keep on going [and] who didn’t see this happening. This is a very emotional time for everyone, especially in my community and my family,” Mason said.

Mason said while she is fortunate to have her grandparents with her, they do not speak about their personal experiences at residential schools.

“It’s important to remember that people who have survived this, that was a part of their life. This is not history. This happened, and our grandparents can remember it,” she said.

The orange flags were carefully arranged to form a heart shape.

As the students placed the flags, there was music and dancing.

Orange flags are placed in the ground where Shubenacadie Residential School once stood to make Truth and Reconciliation Day. (CTV Atlantic)Riverside Education Centre student, Brittan Gehue said participating in the event was extremely important to her.

“It means a lot to be here to honour, represent and really recognize the people, the survivors and helping put down these flags for every person that was here,” she said.

It was an emotional day for many in the community present to witness the children and youth place the flags into the ground and also sing along to their cultural songs.

“Today we are changing the narrative,” said community member De-Anne Sack. “This orange heart is love. It’s love for our people, love for our language, love for our ceremonies, and love for our culture.”

While the community honoured their traditions and remembered the past, the pain continues to hang heavy, especially for elders and families that live just a short distance from the grounds and often commute passing through the area where the residential school stood.

“Our building may be gone, but our people are still haunted. They’re still haunted and they’re forever haunted and tormented by the ghosts of the residential school,” Sack said.

It was a day symbolizing healing, hope and unity from the Sipekne’katik community.

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