Orange crosswalk installed at Broadway and First St.

September 9, 2021   ·   1 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forced to attend residential school are being commemorated locally.  

Last Thursday (Sept. 2), an orange crosswalk featuring seven feathers was painted at the intersection of Broadway and First Street, marking a step towards reconciliation for Orangeville.

“The Town continues its support of the Indigenous community – this crosswalk is a symbol of the strength and courage of the residential school survivors and a tribute to those lives lost,” said Mayor Sandy Brown. “It will be permanent reminder of this unfortunate part of Canadian history.”

The motion to create the special crosswalk was brought forward by Councillor Lisa Post during Council’s June 29 meeting, following consultation with the Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle (DCCRC). The motion was unanimously supported by Council and requested that Town staff have it built by Sept. 30, which is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

“I’m so proud to have worked alongside and with our partners at the Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle,” said Post. “When the initiative started to be discussed, it was really important that we did it the right way. The last thing that we wanted to do was add something in just for tokenism, we really wanted it to have meaning, so it was really important to engage the DCCRC in all of the decisions and have them consult with the elders.”

Post said when the project was brought forward to the DCCRC she knew she wanted the crosswalk to be orange, as it’s the colour worn to recognize the experiences of Indigenous children at residential schools, but it was the organizations members and elders who recommended the seven feathers to represent the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are a set of teachings on human conduct towards others, focusing on a moral respect for all living things. Many Aboriginal organizations and communities have adopted the seven guiding principles, which are: Humility (Dbaadendiziwin), Bravery (Aakwa’ode’ewin), Honesty, (Gwekwaadziwin), Wisdom (Nbwaakaawin), Truth (Debwewin), Respect (Mnaadendimowin), and Love (Zaagidwin)

Post said she loved the idea of including the Seven Grandfather Teachings, represented by white feathers along the crosswalk, as they’re important guiding principles and important to the region’s Indigenous community.

“This crosswalk is a symbolic piece, but it’s more than just a symbol, it is the first step towards a lot of steps that need to be taken by all levels of government, towards truth and reconciliation, and I thought that the messages that the seven grandfather’s teachings brought were so powerful,” said Post. “They really speak to community and forgiveness and reconciliation.”

She told the Citizen that she hopes the crosswalk acts as a reminder of Canada’s history for those who use it.

“I hope that every time that somebody crosses at Broadway and First Street, they take a pause, they take a moment, to remember the history of our country and to remember where the history of our town came from,” Post remarked. “I hope they take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we treated our indigenous peoples terribly, and that’s not okay, and we can never repeat that. But we need to acknowledge the history, and I hope that’s what the crosswalk does, it stops people and has them take a moment to pause.”

With respect to the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, she noted that the special crosswalk puts action behind both the educational component as well as collaboration with Indigenous organizations for commemoration.

“There is still lots of work to be done, but this serves as an important first step towards reconciliation in our local community,” said Post.

Going forward, when the search for unmarked graves at Canada’s former residential schools is finished, Post said she’s hoping the Town’s next step will install a plaque or some educational component at the crosswalk, teaching people about the realities of the residential school system.

Debora Sipkema, DCCRC board chair, said the orange crosswalk is an important symbol for the children that have been found in unmarked graves and those still buried at the 130 schools waiting to be searched across Canada.

She added that she’s fully in support of putting up some educational piece once all the schools are finished being searched.

The cost of the orange crosswalk was less than $10,000.

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Wally Keeler says:

    What is the condition of the crosswalk now?


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