National Truth and Reconciliation Day is not a holiday, says Katzie First Nation member

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours those who survived the residential school system and those who were lost

“My father was fluent in Haq’emeylem, an Indigenous language dialect, but after spending six horrific years in residential school, he refused to teach us how to speak the language. He feared that we would be punished for it.

“Today, I take language classes so I can learn to speak our sacred mother tongue.”

These are the words of Grace George, Chief of Katzie First Nation. She is from the first generation in her family to not attend a residential school.  

She’s only 47.

Chief Grace shared that The National Truth and Reconciliation Day honours those who survived the residential school system but also those who were lost and the legacies they weren’t able to leave behind.

“The strength that communities carry today came from our ancestors. This is irreplaceable. The impact cannot be measured. So, I hope this day recognizes how deep the hurt flows for each First Nation community in this country. We have strived to retain what they tried to abolish,” she said.


The symbolism of the orange shirt and the coming together, gives us an opportunity to openly discuss the dark legacy.

Chief Grace George

Oftentimes people take a day off as an excuse to go on a road trip, staycation and take a break.

“People are like ‘woohoo! It’s a holiday.’ It’s not a holiday. It’s a remembrance day,” explained Maple Ridge resident Danielle Pauquette.

Pauquette’s Kokum (grandmother in Cree) has shared stories from what happened to her friends when she was in residential school.

“My Kokum told me of when her friends went missing and she never saw them again. Or this one time when her friend, a little girl, grew a big belly — so that means she was pregnant, and one night she came back and her belly was gone. What happened to all those little kids? She was only 13 and she was pregnant. It’s disgusting and people want to go take a holiday,” she said.  

Pauquette shared a personal story of her father’s experience as an RCMP officer.

Her father worked with the RCMP for 35 years and experienced racism often. People referred to him as ‘chief’ rather than his name and they made him change his name spelling from Paquette to Pauquette because RCMP didn’t approve of it.

“They associated the ‘Paq’ spelled names with ‘bad First Nations people’ so they made my dad change his last name. They wouldn’t call him sergeant or constable, just chief which is super derogatory and racist.”

She hopes that the Canadian government can include Indigenous history and culture in the education system so people can learn.

“Everybody jumps on the social media bandwagon and says, ‘Oh we remember,’ but do you remember? Do you understand? There needs to be way more education in First Nations culture and people need to research more. If they really wanted to learn, they should reach out to an elder or a survivor to understand what really happened,” Pauquette said.

Her hope is that through this day, First Nations will be fully accepted, without preconceived judgements and hopes that words can be put into meaningful actions.

Chief Grace echoed the sentiment by reiterating that there needs to be a collective understanding before reconciliation.

“The symbolism of the orange shirts and the coming together gives us an opportunity to openly discuss the dark legacy. It’s a time for us to stand together, to support one another and heal together. For far too long this was not talked about. It’s an opportunity our people have never had,” Chief Grace shared.

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