Land blessing ceremony marks 1st step toward new National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg

Residential school survivors, Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers guided a ceremony Thursday to bless the south Winnipeg land where the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will be built. 

The centre will be located on former Southwood golf course lands near the University of Manitoba.

The vision for the future site is an internationally recognized learning lodge that will house exhibits, survivor statements and a ceremony space, says Stephanie Scott, the executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which is currently based at the U of M.

“We need a large space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to come together to learn to understand the true history of residential schools and to be educated, and understand that this is not the past, this is present,” she said. 

“We’re still living today with the legacies of what happened.”

The ceremony was led by residential school survivors, Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The painful discovery of what are believed to be hundred of unmarked graves at former residential school sites — including more than 200 in Kamloops, B.C. — has only emphasized how important these efforts are, Scott said. 

“The world has seen what Canada has done to our people and the children,” she said.

“It was horrific and people really need to understand that.”

It could be a few years before the centre’s new building is open. Scott says she would like it to be complete in five years, but that depends on how much funding the federal and provincial governments are willing to give. 

Wanbdi Wakita, an 80-year-old residential school survivor from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, said the development of the new centre gives him hope for the future of reconciliation.

“It means that we’re able to start on this road with the way it needs to be done,” he said.

The ceremony took place on the former Southwood golf course lands, near the University of Manitoba, where the centre will be built. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

It’s important for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together, Wakita said.

“We really need to do things that’s going to be complementing or co-operating with each other and to live good. We want that for everybody. Those prayers are for everybody.”

Do you have information about unmarked graves, children who never came home or residential school staff and operations? Email your tips to CBC’s new Indigenous-led team investigating residential schools:

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