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September 30th is Orange Shirt Day: National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Author: Atreyu Lewis


Hello, my name is Atreyu Lewis, I use they/he pronouns and I am Indigenous from the Anishinaabe Nation in Ontario. I was born and grew up in Tkaronto on treaty territory but now I am currently situated on unceded Mohawk, Haudenosaunee and Algonquin territory in Tiotia:ke (so-called Montreal QC). I self-identify as an able-bodied, AFAB two-spirit, trans masculine non-binary, neuro-divergent individual who has grown up experiencing intergenerational trauma and learning of traditional knowledge, removal policies, treaty agreements and movements for sovereignty here on Turtle Island. I recognize my socio-economic, documentation, education, able-bodied and medium-skin-toned privileges as I live within so-called Canada. I am glad to be apart of SUTE as a project manager and representative of 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous youth on Turtle Island who continuously fight for land, water, language, treaty and ceremonial rights to be respected on this land and for resources such as shelter, food/water, education, mental health support and more to be accessible for all. I condemn all forms of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-Indigeneity, anti-blackness and all racism against POC ever taking place in the world and hold the government of Canada accountable for their repeated attempts of genocide, cultural assimilation and erasure of traditional ways. I seek to be an informed, compassionate and dedicated anti-racist advocate, organizer, researcher and student as I navigate the systems currently existing on Indigenous soil.


What is Orange Shirt Day?

Orange shirt day is a day of recognition, remembrance and justice for the children who died, went missing and survived the residential school system (1). It is also to honour the families and intergenerational survivors who have been impacted by intergenerational trauma from the residential schools (1). Indigenous peoples and allies wear orange on this day as a way to acknowledge the legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013 (1). This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself (1). It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region (1).


Former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl (2).


To read her story in her own words, please visit here (2).


The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is first recognized as a national statutory holiday in 2021 (3).


To learn more about the Indian Residential School systems, it is important to learn the chronology of how the residential schools came to be, and the intergenerational harm it has caused many Indigenous families (4). To learn more about the chronology, please visit here (4).


It is important to acknowledge that the past and current federal governments were complicit and have committed injustices against Indigenous peoples. Some examples include but not limited to

  • The White Paper (1969) (5)

  • Residential School System (6)

  • Sixties Scoop (7)

  • Funding pipelines such as TMX, Coastal Gaslink, Line 3, etc (8)

  • Fighting Indigenous kids in court in the millennium scoop (9)

  • Refusing to give communities clean drinking water, affordable food/electricity/shelter/etc. (10)

  • Refusing to acknowledge the rising suicide rates in Nunavut and lack of necessities among the communities in the House of Commons (see Mumilaaq resignation speech) (11)


Resources for continued education

To further continue learning on residential school systems, below features some novels that touch on this topic:

  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

  • The Red Files by Lisa Bird-Wilson

  • Porcupines and China Dolls by Robert Arthur Alexie

  • In My Own Moccassins by Helen Knott

  • They called me number one by Bey Sellars

  • My name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling

  • Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

  • Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

  • One story, one song by Richard Wagamese

  • The Reason you walk by Wab Kinew

  • Broken Circle by Theodore Fontaine

  • Up Ghost River by Edmund Metatawabin with Alexandra Shimo

  • Speaking our truth by Monique Gray Smith

  • The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter

  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

  • Dear Canada: These Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack

  • Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story by David A. Roberston and illustrated by Scott B. Henderson


Some video resources:

Follow and support the following social media accounts:

  • Indigenous Intentions

  • Redhouse Series

  • Illuminative

  • Adecolonizingdaughter

  • Indigenousnotvisible

  • Indigenousmotherhood

  • Decolonizemyself

  • Torontoindigenousharmreduction

  • Theindigenousfoundation

  • Junnygirldecolonized

  • Peternotsowhite

If you are looking to buy an orange shirt, please support Indigenous owned businesses. Below is a list of companies that sell orange shirts:

  • Dreamcatcher promotions

  • Indspire

  • Nish Tees

  • Rezonance

  • Napash Arts

  • Turtle Lodge Trading Post

  • Mi’Kmaq Printing and Design

  • Kwe Creations

  • Decolonial Clothing


To join in solidarity with Indigenous people, please support Indigenous led movements. Some movements are listed below:

  • Land Back

  • Idle no more

  • Every child matters

  • MMIWG2S

  • “You’re on native land”

  • No one is illegal on stolen land

  • Cancel Canada Day


To engage meaningfully on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, here are some calls to action listed below:

  • Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission lists of calls to action plus the full report (12)

  • Educating yourself on the history and impacts of the Residential Schools System, as well as further removal policies still occurring such as the Sixties Scoop, MMIWG2S, child welfare system

  • Donating to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society: https://www.irsss.ca/donate

  • Buying orange shirts and general investing towards Indigenous sellers, businesses, companies

  • Volunteering at, attending gatherings/seminars/ceremonies/protests/etc led by Indigenous organizers, community groups

  • Learn who’s stolen land you occupy as well as the traditional place names, treaties and Indigenous communities that reside in that territory

  • Actively challenge, combat against anti-indigenous racism as well as Eurocentric and colonial prejudices, biases, narratives in academic, workplace, social and any other setting.


Resources:


1. About Us [Internet]. Orange Shirt Day. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/about-us.html


2. Blog | Reconciliation Canada [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://reconciliationcanada.ca/category/blog/


3. Indian Residential Schools: A Chronology [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.lawnow.org/indian-residential-schools-chronology/


4. Phyllis’ Story [Internet]. Orange Shirt Day. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html


5. The White Paper 1969 [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_white_paper_1969/


6. The Residential School System [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/


7. Sixties Scoop [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/

8. Pipelines in Canada: Keystone XL, Line 3, Coastal Gasline & TMX [Internet]. SUTE. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.shakeuptheestab.org/post/pipelines-in-canada-keystone-xl-line-3-coastal-gasline-tmx


9. Truth Tracker: Has Trudeau’s government fought Indigenous children in court? | CTV News [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/did-trudeau-s-government-take-indigenous-kids-to-court-1.5581348


10. Marc Miller seeks to clarify the timeline in government documents on water for First Nations - The Globe and Mail [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-marc-miller-seeks-to-clarify-timeline-in-government-documents-on-water


11. Powerful speech delivered by NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq | APTN News - YouTube [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vQnzQIQn48


12. Reports [Internet]. NCTR. [cited 2021 Sep 29]. Available from: https://nctr.ca/records/reports/


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