South Peace News
A special crosswalk was dedicated in High Prairie to acknowledge missing and murdered Indigenous people and remember those who lost their lives in Indian residential schools.
The Town of High Prairie and the local Indigenous community unveiled the crosswalk June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day. About 50 people attended.
Located downtown at the intersection of 51 Ave. and 50 St. by MacIntyre Park, the crosswalk project was initiated last September by Jennifer Zatko, who chairs the High Prairie and District Victim Assistance. She is also the High Prairie branch manager of TD Canada Trust, which she notes paid the full cost of the project.
“We are surrounded by First Nations and Metis settlements,” Zatko says.
“We have a lot of people who were in residential schools and many survivors around us.”
She encourages people to respect other people and cultures.
“We should appreciate our similarities and celebrate our differences,” Zatko says.
She trusts the event will become an annual tradition on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Zatko also thanked local Indigenous artist Younger Caudron, who painted the crosswalks that feature feathers to acknowledge Treaty 8 First Nations, the infinity logo for Metis settlements, and painted handprints.
After the ceremony, people were given opportunity to add their own handprints.
Red handprints represent missing and murdered Indigenous people while orange handprints remember those who died at Indians residential schools and that All Lives Matter.
“We are a town surrounded by six First Nations and Metis settlements, as well as, history shows, three residential schools,” Zatko said when she presented the project to Town of High Prairie council at its meeting Sept. 28, 2021.
“As a community, we need to recognize Canada’s history and work through Truth and Reconciliation to overcome the personal biases.”
High Prairie Mayor Brian thanked Zatko for her initiative to create the special crosswalks to remember the missing and those who have lost their lives in Indian residential schools.
“When we go past the crosswalks, it will help us remember them,” he said.
“We have to work with all our neighbours to make this region better.”
Big Lakes County Reeve Robert Nygaard said the special crosswalks are important to the region.
“The crosswalk downtown will serve as a physical reminder for present and future generations so that this may never happen again,” he said.
“We acknowledge the vast impact this trauma has caused to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in our area.”
He noted more than 18,000 people live within the Big Lakes region, including Indigenous people and communities.
Words were also expressed from the Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council from resolution health support worker Nancy Chalifoux.
“Jennifer, thank you for making this happen.
“We need to have more of these crosswalks.”
She added local Indigenous communities have a lot of missing and murdered Indigenous people and families and communities need and appreciate local support.
As mental health problems and concerns rise, she stresses the value of support.
“Do everything with love and kindness,” Chalifoux said.
High Prairie RCMP S/Sgt. Bryce Tarzwell echoed those words.
“My real hope is that we can start to heal and come together as a community and as a society,” Tarzwell said.
“Let’s never forget to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous people and those who died in Indian residential schools.”