Last week marked a major milestone for the McLean Day Schools Settlement Corporation (MDSSC), with the celebration of our launch event on Thursday, August 19.
Held exactly two years after the courts approved the McLean Federal Indian Day Schools Class Action settlement, the event was designed for and by Federal Indian Day School Survivors, commemorating the launch of our organization, as well as the initiation of our historic national outreach process for Survivors and their families to shape our Legacy Fund.
It was an emotional virtual ceremony from start to finish, beginning with powerful traditional singing and drumming by the Spirit Sands Singers in West St. Paul, Manitoba.
“We want Canadians and people to know the things we have survived and the atrocities we have faced, and how we are resilient people that have adapted and moved forward, and we will continue to do so,” said lead singer Michael Esquash Senior, a friend of late Elder Garry McLean and a Day School Survivor.
The launch provided an opportunity to introduce MDSSC’s Board of Directors, including CEO Elder Claudette Commanda and members Dr. James Igloliorte and Chief Roger Augustine, whose home community of Eel Ground First Nation provided the stunning setting for the event.
“We are honoured and proud to be here to start something new,” said Dr. Igloliorte. “We are honoured to serve you, the Survivors and family members, and we promise to work hard to ensure this Legacy Fund announcement today — and after today — respects the memory of Garry McLean.”
We also heard from Elder McLean’s daughter, Kristin, who spoke tenderly about her father’s pearls of wisdom and reflected on the legacy he left behind.
“I often thought of Dad as a light person — his gifts were joy and strength,” she said. “The experiences he endured, survived, and spent his life working through were used as tools to create connections and support.”
This was a message echoed in a powerful and emotional speech delivered by fellow representative plaintiff, Mariette Buckshot: “Our people were suppressed, segregated, and colonized in ways that should have destroyed us all, but as we sit together today discussing the launch of this organization, we are showing our resilience by standing up and reclaiming our traditional roots, culture, language, and our spiritual, physical, and emotional wellbeing.”
The importance of reclaiming culture was reinforced by an incredible performance by Aikuluk, a group of Inuit throat singers and musicians, that included four young boys who delighted viewers with their traditional drumming.
“Today is indeed an emotional day,” said Elder Commanda. “Not only do we celebrate, but we must remember and we must commemorate. It’s through our love and our tears that healing will come. This is what the Legacy Fund speaks about, to support healing and wellness, to support language and culture promotion, to support commemoration and truth-telling.”
Of utmost importance during this event, of course, was the launch of MDSSC’s national outreach process for Survivors and their families. The Board described the multiple ways Survivors and their families could provide feedback, including both digital forms and smaller in-person sessions. They shared the importance of receiving input through the outreach and engagement process to help design a responsive framework for the implementation of the Legacy Fund, which will directly support Survivors, their families, and their communities.
“We need your help and your voice for the implementation of this Legacy Fund,” said Elder Commanda. “And as Survivors, we all know how critical this Legacy Fund will be for our communities.”
Though this event marked a major milestone for Federal Indian Day School Survivors, particularly with the launch of the outreach process, it was a springboard for ongoing work, rather than a conclusion. Chief Augustine reinforced this sentiment as he said,“This is an emotional, powerful day for all of us, and this is just the beginning.”
To watch a recording of the McLean Day Schools Settlement Corporation’s Launch Event, click here.
Your wellbeing is important to us. If you require immediate emotional support, please call the toll-free, 24/7 Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 to receive culturally-competent counselling and crisis intervention services in English, French, Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway.