July 20th, 2021
Aniin, boozhoo, tansi, hello,
I am Jonathan Henderson, and this statement is to The University of Winnipeg community, past and present.
I am the current Vice President of External Affairs for the University of Winnipeg Student Association (UWSA). With the recent findings in Kamloops, we know it has set a long-awaited movement to search residential schools across Turtle Island. Mass graves of children who never made it home are now being found to be honoured and have the proper ceremonies. These lost children faced horrible realities that were the legacy and impact of these residential schools towards us Indigenous people across Turtle Island.
Many of us, including those non-Indigenous, have been emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually impacted by these recent findings. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, but these children must receive the ceremonies for their spirits to be recognized, honoured, so the families and communities of these children can heal holistically.
It has been very difficult for me to come up with words to express the pain and suffering of many of the families and communities who never had their children come home after being stolen and taken from their homes. Families and communities were torn apart by a governmental policy aimed “to kill the Indian” in us. I am a second generational survivor of this policy. Both my parents survived the residential school system, and that legacy of the residential school system is felt and is a part of us Indigenous people. The generational blood trauma is very real. So, the impact of this policy has affected many generations, and it will take many more generations to heal. But it is important for us to heal in our own ways.
For those students, faculty, and staff from the University of Winnipeg community, take the time to reflect and do the steps you need to help heal. Healing is a journey in all our healing paths, and we will feel stuck. A wise Elder told me that this is when you need to start giving back as part of your healing journey. That does not mean just money donations; it can be simple things like giving someone a much-needed hug or telling someone they are appreciated and loved. For myself, I love doing what I can to give back to the community, such as giving out water and food to those homeless in our community. But when I do not have the funds to do so, providing kind gestures and support to those struggling really helps my healing journey because I can offer life lessons that can help others. Plus, in most cases allowing someone to even vent, just so they feel heard, goes a long way. Any one of you can always reach out and talk to me. I love listening and providing any advice or help I can. Please, I will always share my story and knowledge regarding this dark past on Turtle Island with those who do not know much about this history.
This brings me to share knowledge about the Sacred Fire and Healing Village, located on the east side of the Legislative grounds. This fire is to honour and recognize the lost children that were found. Another purpose of this fire is to provide a healing space for Elders, families, and communities to come together, support one another, share teachings, vent stories, and engage in ceremonies, all aimed at healing from this difficult period. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. I also encourage non-Indigenous people that are not as knowledgeable or have questions to please come down and ask the Elders. It is a very loving camp. The fire will be lit until all residential schools are searched. I am honoured to have been able to pass a motion at our last UWSA Board of Directors meeting to donate $2,500 to this initiative. Along with this, the U of W matched our contribution. Thus, a total of $5,000 has been donated on behalf of our entire U of W community.
Miigwetch to all those who supported this. It is very heartfelt and deeply appreciated. This camp has grown and will continue to need support; please add them on Facebook, MIGIZIWAZISON (Bald Eagles Nest) – SACRED FIRE AND HEALING VILLAGE. They post daily about what their needs are. Please, if you can help in any way, it is deeply appreciated. For those interested and nervous about attending, please reach out to me, and we can always go together in groups. I am so proud I have already seen many of you there. Our Community Liaison Director, Shawna Péloquin, is one of the lead organizers and is always at the camp. Her leadership and strength to be part of this initiative are genuinely inspiring and deeply respected and appreciated. Our U of W community needs to support one another.
In closing, again, miigwetch to all those that have reached out and supported with love. This is another opportunity for love to overcome hate. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President of External Affairs