Retired chief chosen to represent Saskatchewan on Vatican visit

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The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has revealed 13 First Nation delegates who will travel to Vatican City in December to meet with Pope Francis.

The AFN assigned each regional chief to choose a delegate to represent their province or territory. Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron picked Marie-Ann Day Walker Pelletier, a retired chief of Okanese First Nation, to represent Saskatchewan survivors.

“(Cameron) gave me one evening notice. I had to think about it because this is serious stuff,” said Day Walker Pelletier. “It’s a bittersweet thing but again, it’s an opportunity.”

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Day Walker Pelletier is also a residential school survivor. She attended Lebret Indian Residential School for seven years when she was a kid. She endured all sorts of abuses and those memories are still with her to this day.

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Going to the Vatican to meet the Pope is something she will be preparing herself for.

“I practise my culture and my traditional ways and utilizing the elders and ceremony to prepare,” she -said. “I’ve reached out to Chief Bobby Cameron to co-ordinate (a meeting) within the next couple of weeks of some of the messaging I will use.”

The First Nation delegates will be travelling to Rome on Dec. 14 before gathering with the Pope on Dec. 20. Each delegate will be given one hour to sit with the Pope to talk about the impacts of residential schools.

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“What I hope to do is to deliver a message to the Pope,” said Day Walker Pelletier. “A message of the impacts of residential schools and also a message about the unmarked graves.”

The retired chief hopes the Vatican visit will equip Pope Francis with information for his visit to Canada and that he is remorseful in his message to residential school survivors.

“I don’t want to call it an apology, he needs to say he’s sorry,” she said. “Sorry and an apology are two different things. ‘Sorry’ has to come from the heart and it has to have power from him. He needs to (have) an impact to our survivors.”

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The date of the papal visit has not yet been announced.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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