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Two communities take reconciliACTION into their own hands

Jatinder Singh never imagined that a street sign in Victoria's Cook Street village would take him on a journey that stretched back to 1864.

He certainly never imagined that curiosity about a street which reminded him of his Punjab homeland would also bring him stories of the village of Maaqtusiis (Ahousaht) on the west coast of what is now known as British Columbia, or that it would connect his Sikh community to Ahousaht today, in the spirit of meaningful reconciliation.

"What brought us together is the pain that Maggie felt and a ship used to kill so many and bring so much devastation. This #Reconciliation isn’t empty words, but it’s about real support," said @RaviSinghKA, founder and CEO of @khalsaaidca.

Sutlej Street — the name caught Singh's eye as soon as he saw it, he told National Observer in an interview on Oct. 26. Sutlej is the name of one of the five rivers of the Punjab and is associated with many historical Sikh events...

...When Singh looked into the story of Sutlej Street, his research brought him the story of Maggie Sutlej and the Ahousaht Nation.

"It was quite sad to learn that a historic river we hold in high regard would have its name used for these atrocities," Singh wrote in an email.

"Although not considered a sacred river, it is extremely important to us. Some of our Gurus' ashes were immersed in the river, and many Sikh Gurdwaras (places of worship) dot its banks, marking historical events. The Punjab is named after the five rivers which make up the area, and the Sutlej is one of those five rivers."

Singh felt in his heart that he wanted to reach out to the Ahousaht Nation, to share the Sikh community's story of the Battle of the Sutlej and find out more about how Khalsa Aid could work together with the nation to make things right...

...Reflecting on the night's events, Rai said he was proud of the two communities for taking matters into their own hands. He said government officials have been calling him since hearing about the action taken, trying to find ways to be involved and discussing potentially contributing to donations.

"We're tired of the government doing nothing, so we're putting our own money into reconciliACTION," he said. "I think about how confused and heartbroken Maggie must have been, about the injustice of it all. We have nothing to do with that dirty legacy. Maggie prompted us to do something, Maggie opened our eyes."...

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