It was a moving day in Southampton (Saugeen Shores) when G. C. Huston Public School and Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) hosted the morning of Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt day on September 30th (2022).
The day began with a ceremonial fire at dawn at the school lead by Saugeen First Nation speaker and counsellor Dave Root who spoke of his past experiences and how he had gone back to school as a mature adult to achieve his goal of becoming a counsellor.
“I try to live by the seven Grandfather teachings of love, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, humility and wisdom. These are both simple and hard. When we add tobacco to our file, it is to remember our loved ones and those who never made it home.”
The students of the school, in a wave of orange shirts, sat and listened as the Saugeen First Nation youth drummers and the Women’s Drummers performed honour songs at the crosswalk that has been created. The orange walkway concept with its seven feathers representing the Grandfather teachings was initiated by Saugeen Shores Councillor John Divinski and unanimously supported by Council.
Among those who attended the ceremony were survivors of the residential school system. G. C. Huston Principal, Hugh Morrison, said that coming from a place of privilege and a former student at the school, he had always “… assumed it would be a safe place. We promise you (survivors) that this school will always be a place where kids can be who they are, wear what they want and be safe.”
Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau officially dedicated the crosswalk saying that G. C. Huston School is unique in Ontario where staff take special care to incorporate the indigenous culture into their curriculum with shared learning values for all students
At the end of the official ceremony, students and community residents were lead across the newly created walkway by the elder survivors.
From the school, everyone walked to the Zgaa-biig-ni-gan bridge where both communities, Saugeen First Nation and Southampton met in the middle as a sign of two communities being connected.
On the bridge, Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson joined the ceremony saying that “respect” is important 365 days a year.
Saugeen Band Chief, Conrad Ritchie, said, “Today, we are nurturing that spirit of community by being here at the bridge to celebrate one another. We are teaching our children right now about connection, about community and about unity and the way the Creator intended us to live with one another. We will continue to do this and nurture that spirit of community through connection like we have today.”
Following the bridge ceremony, Saugeen First Nation hosted an afternoon of games for the children and various organizations with display booths at the former Administration building grounds.