Sept. 30 marks a monumental occasion in Canadian history, as the first ever Truth and Reconciliation Day. According to the government of Canada’s website, the “day honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
The day, traditionally known as Orange Shirt Day, was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, who was taken from her family, stripped of her brand-new orange shirt and identity, and forced to assimilate into a culture not her own. She was only six-years-old.
This, of course, was not a unique case. Over 150,000 Indigenous children were ripped from their homes and forced to attend residential schools in spite of the fact that they already had their own schools on the reserves that allowed Indigenous cultures to thrive. Although records are incomplete, approximately 6,000 children died, leaving the Survivors with intergenerational scars.
“Today is a day for commemoration and a day for Canadians to hope for a better future as we acknowledge a shameful past. Let us forever banish the racist ideology that allowed it to exist and happen. Let us honour the children who survived residential schools, and those who did not, by working together toward a renewed partnership built on respect, dialogue and recognition of rights,” said the Honourable Marc Miller, Canadian Minister of Indigenous Services, when the day was made official by the introduction of Bill C-5.
Allies of the Indigenous are asked to wear orange shirts to show support for the 215 children found buried at the site of the Kamloops Residential School. However, this just raised more questions regarding those individuals not found.
One day cannot eliminate the horrors that indigenous peoples had to endure, however, the process of educating, acknowledging, and remembering is a step in the right direction.
Please wear orange shirts this week, especially on Sept. 30, to show that every child matters. Healing takes all of us working together.
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer