Orange Shirt Day and Kamloops Indian Residential School Findings came before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led movement to honour residential school survivors and their families, originated when Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her story at an event held in Williams Lake, BC, in spring of 2013. For many years, it was observed annually, but not officially. In May 2021, Chief Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc confirmed the finding of the remains of 215 children by ground-penetrating radar on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Residential school findings are ongoing. Our national dialogue must also be. The atrocities committed by the Canadian government on Indigenous Peoples have always been known to Indigenous Peoples, who held the knowledge and suffering without public recognition of the truth by the government. As residential school findings continued, we mourned during National Indigenous Peoples Day and History Month 2021, a time usually dedicated to celebrating Indigenous communities and cultures.
We must all commit to creating safer places for ongoing dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. On September 30, 2021, the Canadian government officially designated Orange Shirt Day as a statutory holiday to honour the Survivors of Canadian residential institutions and those who never made it home. Canadians observed the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as federal and provincial governments publicly recognized the atrocities committed and the deep need for national dialogue and healing.
Sit with uncomfortable truths. Today and beyond, take an honest look at Canadian reality and reflect on Canada’s responsibility for the deaths and suffering of Indigenous children at residential institutions across the nation. It is important to hear these stories, no matter how difficult they may be. Step forward as a witness to the hard truths, and accept responsibility to learn and change.
Step forward as a witness to the vitality, culture, and knowledge of living Indigenous people and communities in Canada. Read books by Indigenous authors and seek Indigenous perspectives. Take opportunities to hear residential school survivors speak. Visit Indigenous cultural centres and events open to the public. Listen and find your place in an ongoing national dialogue dedicated to truth and reconciliation on this day and always.
Reconciliation is unique for everyone.
What reconciliation means is as unique as each person who envisions it. Heal and learn to make your contribution to truth and reconciliation. It is a day to call upon all of those who can effect change to take action to advance reconciliation in Canada. Every one of us can effect change. We seek healing to contribute to reconciliation in a good way that honours our unique skills, experience, and vision for wholeness.
With ongoing national dialogue, let’s take the first steps together on a long journey toward a safe space where true collaboration, partnership, and reconciliation can happen.
No matter where you travel in Canada, you are on Indigenous Lands. Your home is on Indigenous Lands. Yes, learn whose land you are on but do more than consider the land and its people. Your impact is your responsibility–educate yourself on the local Indigenous community and its current concerns, challenges, and successes. Look for ways you can support the rights, wellness, and economy of your Indigenous host.
The relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Lands is sacred and unbreakable. Indigenous communities often welcome visitors and share culture, even as they face many challenges and barriers that non-Indigenous peoples do not. They are frontline responders to wildfires and natural disasters on their Traditional Territories and keep these commitments despite geographic barriers, diminished resources, health emergencies, and community grief. They protect forests and waters, plants, and animals. Indigenous Knowledge is scientific and land-based, with millennia of research and data collection. If you are a fan of the land, respect Indigenous Wisdom, and observe local Indigenous laws and governance.
Find ways for your organization, team, or group to conduct business and improve relationships with Indigenous partners at Indigenous-owned accommodations, experience providers, restaurants, gift shops, and museums in British Columbia.
Build relationships with Indigenous partners, connect to the land, and let Indigenous peoples in BC bring you and your team closer to cultural sensitivity and leadership in diversity and inclusion.Learn More
The yearly holiday on September 30th is a long-awaited response to Call to Action 80 made in the 2015 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It is a day dedicated to creating opportunities for Canadians to honour residential institution Survivors, their families, and communities. The observance of this holiday also contributes to the education of public servants on Indigenous history, including residential school history and lived reality, rights, laws, and relations. The report includes calls to action for individuals who can effect change in media, policy, law, health, education, and administration. Read the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action and find a place in reconciliation–helpful things you can do now–for you, your business, family, workplace, or organization.
The longstanding and unacknowledged reality and grief of Residential School Survivors, their families, and communities are now part of public awareness and education. Commemorate this reality annually by learning more. Attend online and in-person events offered by public institutions, non-profit organizations, and Indigenous communities and individuals. Read key documents and Indigenous literature, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and firsthand accounts of residential school survival.
Help to remove financial barriers to Indigenous wellness. Capital-based economies are a reality for both those who have been harmed by and profited from colonial practices. Your donations to organizations like Orange Shirt Society or Indian Residential School Survivors contribute to public awareness and programs that attend to Indigenous wellbeing. Purchase Indigenous art. Eat at Indigenous restaurants. Tour with Indigenous guides. Stay at Indigenous accommodations. Invest in Indigenous.
You are invited to create a personal reading list or public book club with literature written by First Nations people living in BC. Indigenous authors in BC, and around the world, share personal perspectives with readers on surviving residential institutions, 60s Scoop, and other measures by the Canadian government intended to separate Indigenous children and families from each other, their lands, and their cultures.Book Suggestions
We walk gently and encourage education and exploration about the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures in British Columbia.