With Canada’s newest national holiday being one of truth and reconciliation, it is good to learn why Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 was made into a holiday. With this in mind, Lisa Sowinski, a member of Eagle Spirit Nest Community Association, spoke about what the day means to Indigenous people across the country.
“Orange Shirt Day, it goes back to residential schools,” said Sowinski. “A young little lady out of Williams Lake, B.C. went to the school wearing her beautiful orange blouse and when she got there, they took it off her and she never saw it again. As years went by — I think it was in 2016 that they started talking about residential schools, and started having people tell their stories. That’s when this lady from Williams Lake, B.C. told her story and they started Orange Shirt Day to recognize all the children that were missing or never made it home from residential schools. The orange shirt represents her blouse and just sharing what happened. The date is September 30 now, and it’s a national holiday because of all the findings at residential schools in that last year or so. We’re just trying to create awareness and the true history of what’s happened and trying to build bridges, work together to come together because we all have to heal. Regardless of if we’re Indigenous or not, we’re all treaty people, we all live on the lands, we all have to come together and work together to help heal the damage from years ago.”
Sowinski emphasized this day was one of healing and how we should strive to keep moving forward. And Sowinski and Eagle Spirit Nest encourage people to continue to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada over the past 100 years.
“Nobody should feel guilty at our age and that is because some people feel guilty because of their churches or their religion about what happened. When I first found out, I felt guilty because I’m Catholic. You know what, we don’t have to because we didn’t do it — our ancestors did years ago — and we just help heal and educate people. People don’t understand sitting around the table, they just think that all these indigenous people get all the stuff for free, but if you learn about the Indian Act, assimilation, colonization, and go through all of that and learn, then you’ll understand why the orange shirt is so important to share all of the stuff, so everybody can heal.”
She also explained how the Eagle Spirit Nest Community Association runs their Orange Shirt Day event.
“At our vigil, we did a moment of silence,” said Sowinski. “We did a vigil September 29 and we decided to do our vigil on the 29th so that our families that live in our communities on the 30th, the holiday, they can go spend it with their families or go elsewhere. The cities put on such big events on September 30 that we thought it would be nice that families could spend the day with their families. Our group, Eagle Spirit Nest, we do a moment of silence at our vigil.”
Sowinski spoke on how people could find out more information on Orange Shirt Day if they wanted to look into it.
“You could just Google Orange Shirt Day — what it means or you could just go to the truth and reconciliation calls to action,” said Sowinski. “There are 94 calls to action and you can read all about that there, too. We will be doing a blanket exercise — if you have never experienced a blanket exercise — I think we’re planning on doing one here before Christmas. A community one at the library, and that would be something you could learn all those things at. It’s like a visualization where everybody plays the part/a role in it as an Indigenous or as a European. You read scrolls and you kind of go back in time to seeing all the Indigenous having all of the land, to when the Europeans came in and they start taking the land, and when the kids are tak- en to residential schools.”
Finally, Sowinski spoke on how Eagle Spirit Nest works with many community-centric organizations to assist them with their own plans for the day.
“All the schools will be doing Orange Shirt Day and it might be a different day because there is no school on September 30 which is a Friday this year. All schools in Horizon will be doing something different in the last week of September.”
To keep up to date with the association, visit their Facebook page at www. facebook.com/Eagle-Spirit-Nest-Community-Association-105941494082876/
Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times