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Okotoks to host traditional Blackfoot ceremony for Sept. 30

The Okotoks Municipal Centre will also be lit orange beginning the evening of Sept. 29 until the morning of Oct. 1. 
NEWS-Piistoo Park Okotoks RK 0591WEB
People take part in a round dance symbolizing friendship after a ceremony was held to rename the former Dewdney Park to Piistoo Park outside of the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 21.

The second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is fast approaching and the Town of Okotoks has announced its plans to commemorate the day. 

"The Town recognizes and commemorates the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools as part of the reconciliation process and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action," its website said. 

Sept. 30 is also nationally recognized as Orange Shirt Day, a time to commemorate the residential school experience, honour the healing journey of survivors and commit to reconciliation. 

A Blackfoot ceremony for residential school survivors, non-survivors and lost children is set for 10 a.m. on Friday at the newly-named Piistoo Park outside the Okotoks Art Gallery. 

The public is welcome to attend and partake in the ceremony, though space in the teepee will be limited, according to the Town. Following the ceremony, there will be a round dance, traditional berry soup and bannock. 

The Okotoks Municipal Centre will be lit orange beginning the evening of Sept. 29 until the morning of Oct. 1. 

Town administrative operations will close for the day, though the Okotoks Recreation Centre, Centennial Arenas, Okotoks Art Gallery and Museum & Archives will remain open to the public and waste collection services will operate as scheduled.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature the documentary Little Moccasins and the St. Joseph’s (Dunbow) Residential School exhibit on the second floor.

The Dunbow Residential School display will be presented alongside the shoes preserved from Okotoks' 215 memorial which was held in June. 

A video titled Every Child Matters – Reconciliation – Act Two will also be shown. The short film, courtesy of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, is the sequel to the video shown last year, Every Child Matters – Truth – Act One and features a cross-Canada collection of indigenous voices.

Admission to the museum is free. 

The Okotoks Public Library is offering a Blackfoot Story Robe take home craft kit and has created relevant book displays throughout the facility. 

According to its website, the Town has undertaken work with Indigenous stakeholders and engaged with the community on how to move forward authentically and meaningfully since 2019. 

This includes an upcoming Traditional Knowledge and Use Assessment in partnership with the Blackfoot Confederacy, Tsuut’ina Nation and Stoney Nakoda Nations. The assessment will categorize all lands in Okotoks based on their potential to contain important traditional resources or that have special significance to First Nations based on the land’s history and cultural significance. 

"The Town recognizes the journey to reconciliation is a long one, and observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important first step in the process," it said. "The Town of Okotoks is committed to reconciliation and building a relationship through dialogue with the Indigenous community to ensure that Okotoks is an inclusive community that respects their history, traditions and culture." 

Black Diamond and Turner Valley officials confirmed they do not have any formal events planned for Sept. 30.