The Town of St. Paul has issued an invitation for people of all cultural backgrounds to join in a “special event symbolizing our united stand against racism and discrimination.” On Tuesday, February 6, a healing walk will start at the Spirit Bear statue at Racette School (corner of 43 Street and 48 Avenue) at 11:00 am and proceed to the Recreation Centre, where participants will share lunch and conversation, followed by a round dance. (Should the temperature drop below -15C, the event will occur at the Recreation Centre beginning at 11:00 am.)
Two public gatherings to discuss systemic racism have been held since last summer, and the walk is a form of acknowledgment that St. Paul has heard the concerns and is working “to create welcome and inclusive communities, where residents, employees and visitors are not at risk of racism, discrimination, or social exclusion.”
Linda Sallstrom, executive director of the St. Paul & District Chamber of Commerce and a member of the “We Walk Together” (also called a Thoughtful Walk, or Pimohtệ in Cree) committee, says “The intent behind the walk is to create an awareness of social situations, of relationships between Saddle Lake and St. Paul and all Indigenous communities, as well as creating an awareness of all cultures that are here in St. Paul.”
She notes that while the issue of racism was raised by members of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, she recognizes that St. Paul is culturally diverse. It has Cree, French, and Ukrainian roots, and growing Filipino and African communities. Sallstrom wants people of all cultures to join the walk. “While we do focus on the Indigenous relationships, we don’t want to leave those other relationships out of it. Everybody has been invited. We hope this will be taken as an open invitation.”
The walk will stop in front of the post office at the statue of the elder. The elder’s peace pipe, which has been broken for a number of years, will be repaired in time for the event. The significance of the broken peace pipe was recognized at one of the public meetings, and its repair is a step in healing wounds.
A third stop along the walk will be at Portage College, and the final stop will be at the Recreation Centre where lunch is being provided by the Town of St. Paul and the County of St. Paul. Participants are encouraged to meet new friends and discuss what “Walking Together” can mean. The event will conclude with a celebratory round dance.
The walk was coordinated by a committee of representatives from Saddle Lake First Nations, County and Town of St. Paul, The St. Paul and Area Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures, Champions of Change, Reconciliation St. Paul Committee, and Blue Quills University, demonstrating that there are a number of groups in the area working towards improving relations among the communities.