What is The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
Between 2008 and 2015, people who were directly affected by the residential school were invited to share their stories and experiences with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This was not an easy time for survivors; however, it was a step in their healing journeys. As a result of the report, Action 80 was implemented which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration. Thus, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was designated for September 30th each year. This is a day to honour and remember the children who never made it home from those residential schools. It is also a day to honour the survivors and their families in all communities. Not only is September 30th the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation but it is also Orange Shirt Day. People will proudly wear their orange shirts to raise awareness of the intergenerational impacts of residential schools.
What is the Orange Shirt Society?
The society was formed in Williams Lake in 2013 by the founders of Orange Shirt Day to encourage and support communities to recognize Orange Shirt Day and to support reconciliation events and activities. The purpose of the society is to support residential school reconciliation, create awareness of individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential schools through Orange Shirt society activities and to raise awareness of the concept of “Every Child Matters”. The reason the orange shirt is used as a symbol for Truth and Reconciliation Day is from the experience of Phyllis Webstad. In the early 70’s, Phyllis was 6 years old and lived on the Dog Creek Reserve in Williams Lake. She was excited to attend the local Mission school and picked out a bright orange shirt to wear, which caught her eye because of how colourful it was. Upon her arrival at the school, she was stripped of all her clothes and possessions, never seeing them again. The colour orange reminds her of that time in her life and the trauma she endured. Orange Shirt Day reclaims this symbol as one of hope, awareness, and healing.
How can I support Truth and Reconciliation in my community?
Education is a key component in supporting Truth and Reconciliation in communities. Truth and reconciliation are not only about acknowledging the past but also supporting change in the future. It is important to understand the history of colonization and to understand how cultural genocide has affected Indigenous communities across Canada.
10 ways to support Truth and Reconciliation include:
- Challenge yourself to learn more about Indigenous history.
- Wear orange on September 30th
- Donate to the Orange Shirt Society.
- Attend a local event in your community.
- Challenge yourself to learn about residential schools.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.
- Identify and acknowledge the territory of where you live.
- Read a book or listen to a podcast on Indigenous history.
- Support an Indigenous business.
- Watch a movie/film by an Indigenous filmmaker.
How Can I Support Orange Shirt Day?
September 30, 2023, is the 10th anniversary of the Orange Shirt Society. Please wear orange to support and honour the survivors of residential schools. Attend a local event or start a conversation on the importance of this day.
The first step in supporting truth and reconciliation starts with you. It is important to acknowledge the history of colonization and the effect it had on indigenous people. Be mindful not only on this day but every day. This day will be an emotional day for many people. If you find yourself in need of support, please reach out to Walmsley EFAP, where we can connect you with a counsellor who will be able to help.
Harriet Hird MACP RCC BSW
Harriet is a counsellor in Williams Lake, BC and works with indigenous clients in that area. This includes: Tsq'escen' (Canim Lake), Stswecem'c/Xgat'tem (Canoe & Dog Creek) Xat'Sull (Soda Creek & Deep Creek, and T'exelcemc (Williams Lake First Nations). She also works with Esketemc First Nations ( Alkali ) and Tl'etinqox(Anaham), Tsi Del Del (Redstone), Yunesit'in (Stone), Xeni Gwet'in (Nemiah), Esdilagh (Alexandria) and Tl'esqox (Toosey) And Ulkatcho (Anahim Lake)
She is from the Ulkatch Band.