The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre was packed with orange shirts Saturday afternoon, as people from the community came out to recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The event kicked off at 2 p.m. at the Leon Avenue location in downtown Kelowna, with drumming performances from both the local women’s group and men’s groups. The space was full of people of all ages, from the very young to elders, and those of all ages joined in on the drumming.

Lynette Granger, with the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre, spoke about Canada’s history of residential schools and the Government of Canada’s attempt to eliminate Indigenous culture.

“Here we are today to first of all recognize and admit that this happened, that these atrocities, these terrible awful things that happened to families, torn apart, their culture tromped on … and treated less than human. We must never forget. We are here first of all to remember and pay tribute to those who didn’t make it,” Granger said.

“And also to pay tribute to the survivors who had to carry on and whose families had to carry on with the damage and to help people repair.

“This day is about, yes, remembering some very tragic things, but it’s also remembering ‘I need to also honour my ancestors by healing.’”

The speakers spoke against a backdrop of photos and paper cut-out red dresses, with the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women – a powerful reminder of the generational pain and trauma Indigenous people deal with.

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas and city councillor Loyal Woolridge also spoke at the event.

“My good friend [Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre executive director] Edna [Terbasket] always says, the first step is acknowledging and learning the truths,” Woolridge said.

“Before we can talk about reconciliation, it’s that process of not understanding, because we can’t, but acknowledging those truths so we can walk together on this path of reconciliation.”