On Saturday, September 30, Canada will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR). This is a day of reflection on the impact of residential schools and the forced adoption of Indigenous children – hundreds of children never made it home. The theme this year is education, representing the best place to start for increasing awareness and allyship about this significant day in Canadian history.
NDTR was originally known as Orange Shirt Day, established in 2013 as a memorial to the children who were forced to attend residential schools. Phyllis Jack Westad has raised Canadians’ awareness of the forced assimilation of Indigenous children by retelling the story of the teacher who took away her shiny, new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother for Phyllis’ first day of school at St. Joseph Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, B.C.
Education about this history has grown across Canada. Increasing numbers of books, movies, songs and lessons are available to inform non-indigenous people about the treatment of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in our country.
Here are some ways to learn more and honour the memories of Canada’s Indigenous children.
1. Remembering the Children Gathering
On Saturday, September 30, there will be a nationally televised gathering on Parliament Hill organized by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, APTN-TV, and the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. This cultural and commemorative event takes place at 1:30 PM (ET) and will be broadcast by most Canadian media. Service providers may wish to bring clients together to watch the program. If you do, you may want to invite a local Elder to open with a prayer.
“National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity for all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to come together in a spirit of healing and understanding,” said APTN CEO Monika Ille. “Remembering the Children offers us an opportunity to honour our shared history, celebrate resilience and work towards a future where every voice is heard, and every story matters.”
2. A Week of Lunch & Learns
NCTR is hosting a week of daily 50-minute Lunch & Learns, aimed to promote immersive learning from Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and unlearn the myths many Canadians have been taught. Great for small groups and discussions, service providers may wish to host these events individually or as a series. The topics are:
- Day 1 – Sept. 25: Indigenous peoples and the history of residential schools
- Day 2 – Sept. 26: Unconscious bias and debunking stereotypes
- Day 3 – Sept. 27: Intergenerational impacts and ongoing systemic discrimination
- Day 4 – Sept. 28: Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
- Day 5 – Sept. 29: Taking action towards reconciliation
3. Host an Orange Shirt Day Event
The Orange Shirt Society has a simple online agenda to help groups organize their own events. People can gather to hear from a survivor(s) of residential schools, watch a video of Phyllis Webstad telling her story, or other activities. Visit the Society’s website for resources and ideas.
4. Wear Orange
Even if you aren’t attending any events, wear orange on the 30th to show your support for reconciliation. Many shops in BC sell orange shirts with art and the slogan “Every Child Matters.” If you choose to buy one, be sure the shirt you choose is made by an Indigenous person. Often, a portion of the proceeds are donated to a residential school survivors’ support fund.
5. Read an Indigenous Author
With recent grants to encourage Indigenous authors and publishers, there is a growing list of Canadian literature available and most bookstores are adding shelves to present them. In addition to your own reading, perhaps create a booklist for your clients that includes local issues and authors as well as publications of national interest.
There is likely a book for every taste, from essays and first-person narratives to poetry and novels. Your local bookstore or librarian can help you put together a great reading list. Here’s a list of 10 Indigenous Canadian authors to get you started.
6. Attend a local Truth and Reconciliation Event
If you aren’t hosting an event at your own agency or with your local CRN, find out what’s happening in your community. There are dozens of events planned in BC communities, including:
- An extensive list of events (as provided by the Province of BC)
- Metro Vancouver
- Nelson: COINS Ribbon Skirt Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org for information
- Prince George
- Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Songhees Nation Powwow
- Miscellaneous events on Eventbrite
If you are hosting or attending an event in your community, please send it to email@example.com and we’ll add it to the list.
7. Hold Space to Learn and Honour
Let us know how you will be honouring the Survivors of residential schools, the children who never made it back, their families and communities on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We’d love to post your stories and photos in CRN news.