Crosswalk honours survivors, loved ones lost

Judy Ducharme, centre, is flanked by helpers Tyne Lunn, left, and Amber Houle after the crosswalk was completed.

Emily Plihal
South Peace News

A beautiful tribute has been created in Peace River to honour the residential school survivors and the children who lost their lives.
Local indigenous artist Judy Decharme, daughter of a residential school survivor, painted a crosswalk on the way to the Treaty 8 Memorial at Riverfront Park.
“I saw that the city of Kamloops had an Every Child Matters crosswalk to honour the 215 children found buried at their residential school,” says Ducharme. “That inspired me, and I wanted to find a way to honour survivors and children of the residential schools closer to home.”
Ducharme wanted to use her art to express her respect for her father, her uncle, the survivors, and the children who lost their lives. She says what people experienced at residential schools ripples deep, noting that there are intergenerational affects from their experiences.
“I am an artist by trade and a nail technician,” says Ducharme, noting that she has done an Every Child Matters nail design and partnered with Caribou Cresting to design orange shirts.
“However; this painting just feels different. It was really an honour to have this vision come to life and to be able to share with people I don’t know.”
Her efforts included making a presentation to the Town of Peace River, through the Aboriginal Interagency Committee and Wendy Goulet, to request the space to create her art. She explains a number of people and organizations helped to make the crosswalk a reality.
Ducharme aimed to have her crosswalk completed prior to Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30, a Canadian statutory holiday to recognize the legacy of the Canadian Indian Residential School System. Most notably, this day is a day to remember all children who suffered trauma in residential schools, to honour the children left behind and the people who are still healing.
Her design took six hours to complete on a blistering hot day and she’s thankful for all the people who made sure she stayed hydrated, fed and the folks who went to the store for more paint when she ran low.
“I want to send a huge heartfelt thank you to Amber Houle and Tyne Lunn,” she says. “They stayed with me right until the end providing energy, muscle, support, sweat, tears and laughs to help me power through.”
“I want to send a huge heartfelt thank you to Amber Houle and Tyne Lunn,” she says. “They stayed with me right until the end providing energy, muscle, support, sweat, tears and laughs to help me power through.”
She says her wish was to have her art be a symbol of respect, a reminder of Canadian history [which she says doesn’t always have to be negative], a symbol of moving forward, kindness, peace, and respect.
She reminds people if they have questions to not be bashful and to make sure to ask them. She urges people to initiate the conversations and just remember to be respectful. She encourages people to go sit near it and embrace it.
“I’m overwhelmed by the impact of the crosswalk,” she says. “It’s been shared on social media from New Brunswick all the way to Vancouver. My love language is my art and the best way I know to honour is through my art. I’m happy it’s having this impact on so many people.”
Jennifer Zatko designed and dedicated another crosswalk to honour residential school survivors and lost children in High Prairie during a ceremony June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Judy Ducharme hard at work on a blistering hot day, at the start of painting the crosswalk.

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