I am dedicating the first swim of the MSMS expedition from Little Current to the unceded territory of Wiikwemkoong in honor and memory of Agillius, the grandfather of Dillon Ominika.
I was deeply touched and moved when Dillon shared the story of his grandfather with me (I wrote a post about it, see bottom link). Agillius was forced to attend residential school in Spanish River and wanted to swim his way home.
Last year, the indigenous communities respectfully asked us not to celebrate Canada day, in light of the shock and grief they experienced when the unmarked graves of thousands of children were discovered at residential schools.
In the spirit of truth, last year I did celebrate Canada day. I did not do it out of malice but from lack of understanding. I felt torn, we have a long held family tradition of gathering together on this day, and to me this day is associated with family. I can now see how this would be hurtful and for that I apologize.
This is a very dark chapter of Canadian history which I was not taught about at school and did not know about until later adulthood. I am a year late, but this year I will not be celebrating. Instead, I will be swimming over 20km to honor the memory of Agillius, a victim of the residential school system. This is my act of reconciliation, which I hope will bring much needed healing to the wounded indigenous communities of our nation and bring this tragic part of our history into the light.
Chi Miigwetch to the beautiful people of Wiikwemkoong who will be welcoming me and my team as I attempt to swim around Manitoulin. I choose to weep with you, rather than wound you further. I see your hurt, I see your anger, I see your grief and my heart goes out to you.