November 3, 2016.
Hearts will soon be adorning the trees and shrubs in Edmonton’s river valley along the multi-use path between Groat Road and the High Level Bridge.
The pathway is Edmonton’s interpretation and contribution to a national network of healing forests that was conceived by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
“These places are supposed to be places for reflection and understanding about the legacy of residential schools and also some current issues like murdered and missing Aboriginal women and the children in the foster care system,” said Sara Komarnisky, a member of RISE (Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton).
The NCTR will be mapping the locations of the healing forests across Canada.
“Our initiative in Edmonton is intended to be a community space but will be linked together with other healing forests throughout the country,” said Komarnisky.
She says the path – which will be marked as far as 1,200-plus hearts go – was chosen because it was a busy location throughout the year and, in the winter months, includes an outdoor skating rink.
“RISE works to bring people together around residential schools and the legacy of residential schools and making safe places to talk about that and to take action toward reconciliation so we wanted to put it somewhere where people come together,” said Komarnisky.
The installation is the repurposing of hearts that were made in 2015 by over 200 people and planted in heart gardens outside of City Hall and at Edmonton Public Library locations. The hearts – made of a variety of materials including paper, cloth and wood – contain messages of support for survivors of residential schools.
“This is their second life. So they will be hung in the trees and stay there as long as nature intends them to,” said Komarnisky.
A sign along the path will direct people to a website so they can learn about colonialism, residential schools, murdered and missing Indigenous women, and Aboriginal children in care.
“I can imagine along that path people stopping to, at first, wonder what these hearts are and learn about them…. For other people it could be a place to go to reflect and think about their personal link to this history,” said Komarnisky. “We’re hoping that it sparks people to reflection and understanding and ultimately to action.”
RISE is looking for volunteers to help out with the installation which will take place Saturday afternoon. Volunteers are asked to meet across from the Victoria Park oval parking lot.
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