Salmon Arm Museum staff attended an event outside the Art Centre on Hudson on September 30. We went early, wondering how well attended the gathering to mark Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would be. It was drizzling. The sky was overcast. In a way, the weather was cooperating and it seemed fitting that there was no sun.

We chatted with friends under the tent set up by the Gallery. I introduced our newest staff person, Collections Registrar Erin Stodola, to people I thought she should know. We waited. As the crowd filed in, we stepped outside the tent. Erin and I had raingear on. We wouldn’t melt.

Photo courtesy Lachlan Labere, Salmon Arm Observer

Tracey Kutschker, Curator of the Arts Centre, did an excellent job sponsoring the event. She was unsure how many would attend, but felt she could accommodate 500 on the streets in front of the gallery. She had a microphone and speaker set up on the steps. I saw politicians join us. They, like us, were just the audience.

Fittingly, Knowledge Keeper and Band Councilor Louis Thomas opened the ceremony in Secwepemctsin. I knew Louis had attended Kamloops Residential School for three months a long time ago. He did not adjust to life indoors. He ran away with a few possessions, hitching a ride home atop a CPR car. Dangerous and cold. But on September 30th Louis didn’t tell the complete story.

Erica Seymour brought her family and drumming group to sing the honour song. The heart beat amplified and simple words carried. The crowd, hummed along, not wanting to intrude on the drummers or singers. We were honouring the 215 children who died at Tk’emlúps in care at the Residential School.

Tracey took the mike again, telling us that when she approached Louis he said there had to be an open mike for anyone to speak. It was part of the healing process. All voices were to be heard.

Louis Thomas is the Cultural Advisor at the Salmon Arm Museum. What I like about Louis is that he has these insights and suggestions that cut to the core when we tell him about the things we try to do. Of course he was right. Survivors spoke. First Nations people spoke. Settlers spoke. There was one uncomfortable moment when a member of the Catholic Church moved to the mike, but he was given the respect of a voice heard. Parishioners did not know. Juanita Austin, retired United Church Minister, spoke next. She apologized for her ignorance. She apologized for her church’s own history managing residential schools.

Picture the street. The plaza was full of people listening. Children, parents, young people, and seniors gathered in orange. People lined up across Hudson and McLeod Streets under store awnings. We were a community and there to ask, “What do we do now?”

First comes acknowledgement. Then comes the apology. But what do we do next? The question will be on the minds of all of us who attended this event.

Post Script
Prior to their performance on the Art Centre Plaza, Jane Seymour and her drumming group took part in a gathering at the Marine Peace Park which was filmed by the Salmon Arm Observer.