From motorcycle rides to ceremonies: Manitobans honour residential school victims

WINNIPEG — The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan is being felt in Manitoba, sparking two groups of people to walk and ride through the province to show solidarity with the Indigenous community.

On Sunday, motorcycles gathered in the Dhillon Automotive Group parking lot in Winnipeg, with riders wearing orange to honour victims of the residential school system.

Bava Dhillon, the organizer and vice president of Dhillon Automotive Group, said he wanted to acknowledge the children who never made it home.

“Our grandmothers, our grandfathers, they don’t forget, and the recent uncovering of the remains of our children has brought back very negative thoughts in our grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ minds.”

Earlier this week, Cowesses First Nation said it found an estimated 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

This discovery comes less than a month after 215 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Dhillon said his mother is a survivor of the residential school system, and he wanted to raise awareness about its impact on the Indigenous community.

“Let’s organize a motorcycle ride. What better way to grab people’s attention than 50 motorcycles driving down the highway?” said Dhillon.

The motorcycle rally made its way to the residential school in Brandon.

North of the city, a ceremony was organized by Roseau First Nation.

The ceremony honoured a group of people walking from Saskatchewan to Ottawa to raise awareness about the impact of residential schools.

Organizer June Thomas said the ceremony will bless them on their journey and keep them safe.

“I know it must get lonely walking out there away from their family (and) their community,” said Thomas. “We want to let them know that we do care, and we want them to know that they’re not alone.”

Former Grand Chief and Indigenous advocate Sheila North said Indigenous allies have a role to play in spreading awareness.

“We need to see a groundswell like this from Canadians, average Canadians, groups of Canadians, to show their effort in saying that what happened to children in residential schools was wrong, and we need Canadians to get on board to help us,” she said.

As for Dhillon, he hopes the motorcycle rally brings home the message that every child matters.

“Coming together really brings us unity, and the healing process can happen,” he said.

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