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P.E.I. lowers flags, gives experiential history lesson on Truth and Reconciliation Day

Truth and Reconciliation Day started in Charlottetown with a flag lowering ceremony.

Marlene Thomas, a residential school survivor, shared her feelings with the crowd.

“I know people say, ‘get over it,’ if this was you, would you get over it?” Thomas asked the crowd.

She finished by saying that, for her, it is now about forgiveness and love.

“I feel the love from all of you, and I give you my love,” said Thomas.

The premier and Chiefs from both Prince Edward Island’s First Nations lowered the flag at noon to mark the symbolic transition from truth to reconciliation.

About 100 people gathered at the University of Prince Edward Island in the afternoon for a blanket exercise.

The practice, developed in 1997, is a way to visually and experientially demonstrate Indigenous history in the face of European colonialism.

As the exercise goes on the space, Indigenous lands represented by the blankets on the floor, are slowly shoved in and taken away. Leaving less and less room for those taking part.

Then people are slowly taken away representing those who died, were removed, or could never return to their communities.

The blankets are broken up. Each blanket representing only a small reserve left to the native people by the Canadian government.

“A lot of times people feel personally attacked as we’re taking away blankets, and they feel defensive," said Kaelyn Mercer, Native Council of PEI Two Spirit coordinator.

The contrast between beginning and end is stark.

It ends with traditional dance a reminder of the work Indigenous people are doing to repair the damage done to their culture.

Of course no one could fully understand it except for those who went through it themselves. This exercise is designed to give a glimpse into a dark chapter of Canadian history.

For more P.E.I. news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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