AFN National Chief Honours Mary Moonias: First Residential School Survivor to Receive Common Experience Payment

    EDMONTON, Oct. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine today presented Ms. Mary Moonias, of Muskwachees Cree Nation
(Louis Bull First Nation), with a letter confirming that she is the very first
survivor of Indian Residential Schools to receive a Common Experience Payment,
as result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
    "Today is truly a historic moment for Mary Moonias and every single
survivor of Indian Residential Schools. It is a tremendous honour for me, on
behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, to celebrate this historic moment
with Ms. Moonias as the first person to receive a Common Experience Payment.
Ms. Moonias is now part of a living legacy. We congratulate her and wish her
well in her future endeavors," said National Chief Fontaine.
    National Chief Fontaine also reflected upon the significance of the
Settlement Agreement.
    "The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement is the largest
settlement agreement ever awarded in Canadian history, and it is a monumental
achievement for every single survivor. The total value of the Settlement
Agreement is nearly $5 Billion and each survivor can expect to receive a
Common Experience Payment on average of $28,000.00, depending on how many
years they attended the schools. The Common Experience Payment made to Mary
Moonias is the first of approximately 80,000 that will be made to every single
eligible recipient by the time the Settlement Agreement is fully implemented,"
concluded National Chief Fontaine.
    AFN Alberta Regional Chief Wilton Littlechild, who is also a citizen of
the Muskwachees Cree Nation, said today's announcement has special
significance. "Mary Moonias is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect
for. On behalf of the Muskwachees Cree and all First Nations in Alberta, we
congratulate her for being the very first recipient of the Common Experience
Payment in the entire country. It is a tremendous honour and a great source of
pride for all of us," added Regional Chief Littlechild.
    For Mary Moonias, who has had a career teaching First Nations children,
today was a day she said she will never forget. "I honestly can't believe that
I was the first one to receive this Common Experience Payment. For me, it
isn't just about the money; it's also about the healing. I accept the payment,
but it can never fully make up for what I experienced in Residential School.
The federal government is finally beginning to own up to what it did to me and
to every other First Nation person who was taken away against our will from
our families, our homes, and our communities. We all need to heal from this
past, while recognizing that we have all different experiences as a result of
residential schools. Having the National Chief Phil Fontaine present me with a
letter confirming this Common Experience Payment is a moment that I will
always treasure. I am a private person, but I agreed to mark this moment in
our history because it is something that I will leave as a legacy for my
children and grandchildren. I want them to always remember who they are and
where they come from. Most of all, I hope it gives our future generations the
courage to be proud of who they are and to always strive to be as successful
and as happy as possible."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens of Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329,; Nancy Pine,
Communications Advisor, Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext. 243,
cell (613) 298-6382,; Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications
Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext. 336, cell (613) 327-6331,

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