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Reclaiming the Land with residential school survivors

Lhtako Dene Nation elders speak of the past and future in video
Reclaiming the Land was shown at a regular Quesnel city council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27. (YouTube/screen grab)

An 18-minute video shot on the traditional territory of the Lhtako Dene Nation featuring residential school survivors and how they are reclaiming their cultural identity and sharing their knowledge with younger generations is now available to view.

Reclaiming the Land, a joint partnership with the Lhtako Dene Nation and the City of Quesnel, was shown at a regular city council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27.

It is a result of Quesnel’s waterfront plan that was divided into three grant application components to the Northern Development Initiative Trust, including a refresh of the Fraser River Footbridge, lighting to the Riverfront Trail and planning for Indigenous cultural components.

The film is produced by One Island Media.

“On top of this 18-minute video, we still have full-length interviews with Lhtako Dene elders,” said the city’s senior community development coordinator Lindsay Blair.

The video opens with comment from Lhtako Dene Nation elders group president Bryant Paul.

“I cried when they found those 215 children that never made it home — that really hurt me. To this day, I still feel it,” Paul said. “I’m one of the fortunate ones that made it home, and I pray for those ones out there; up there watching over us.”

“When they found those children in the graves,” he continued pausing, wiping away the tears from his eyes, “they were brought home, they’re finally coming home.”

Voices of elders share the abuses suffered in residential school.

Terry Boucher described their regalia and drums being thrown into a large bonfire.

“They wanted to assimilate us, but we’ve survived; our people have survived this,” Boucher said. “We’ve come from a hurtful place. We’ve come from a place where we were not treated right and our lands, culture, traditions and language were taken from us but don’t dwell on that —build on it. Learn the language, learn the tradition, learn and it will help you heal.”

Paul said to this day, he is still learning.

In the video, Ellie Peters shares how to harvest juniper from the forest and make a healing hot drink from it for muscle aches and more. She is also shown harvesting a moose.

Another elder speaking in Carrier scrapes a deer hide and removes the water from the hide by wringing it out with two sticks.

Eileen Paul is shown teaching a young generation how to make bannock over an open fire.

“We have to listen to our elders now because we’re losing them,” said Lhtako Dene Nation health coordinator Tia Bunnah.

Elder Maureen Boyd said very few are fluent Carrier speakers and remain.

Peters is shown in a classroom teaching the language to children.

“Whatever knowledge we have as an elder we have to come out and start teaching it, and if we don’t we’re going to lose everything, so it is very important,” Peters said.

Blair noted the film is translated from Carrier to English and will be translated from English to Carrier in the future.

One Island Media co-founder Neil Ferguson said if we truly want to move forward with reconciliation, everyone has to come together, work together and listen.

Quesnel mayor Bob Simpson described it fitting to have the video presented with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation taking place Friday, Sept. 30. He added that building a relationship with a First Nation takes years and is formed on trust.

“One word — powerful,” councillor Ron Paull said of Reclaiming the Land.

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