GMercyU Hosts Tree Planting Ceremony to Remember Lost Indigenous Children

GMercyU TreeOn Friday, September 30, Gwynedd Mercy University’s Title IX Coordinator Robert Wood partnered with the Lakota people to hold a tree planting ceremony on GMercyU’s campus. The planting honored Orange Shirt Day to remember the children lost in the Indian residential school system.

PAZA, Tree of Life, a Native American non-profit organization based in Easton, Pa., donated an Eastern Redbud tree to GMercyU. Several representatives from PAZA were present at the tree planting, including Delwin Elk Bear Fiddler Jr., Maria Ragonese, and Rob Christopher.

Representatives from the group Tipi Raisers attended as well, including Reuben Fast Horse and Susie Schmieder. Robert Wood is also a member of the Tipi Raisers.

Both Delwin Elk Bear Fiddler Jr. and Reuben Fast Horse are members of the Lakota Nation, and serve as educators, performers, and ambassadors for the Lakota people.

At the event, attendees were led in traditional blessings, prayer, and song. They also learned about the history of the trauma associated with the Indian residential school system and how Indigenous people are still affected today.

GMercyU Tree PlaqueThe newest addition to GMercyU’s campus is a symbol of remembrance.

"We must never forget them, we must never forget all of the children who were forced into the schools. We must never allow this to occur again. We must help those who were hurt to heal," said Wood.

As Lakota member Thatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull) stated, “We must put our minds together and make a better life for all our children. We plan this tree so that we may always remember the children.”

The Lakota People have no word for goodbye, but rather say “Toksa Akhe” – I will see you again.

To view the whole ceremony, check out the video below!

Learn more about PAZA Tree of Life and the Tipi Raisers.