In June of this year, the federal government passed legislation marking September 30th as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to ‘recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.’ This date coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which began in 2013, and involves wearing orange shirts to honour Indigenous children pulled from their families to attend residential schools. Orange Shirt Day recalls the experience of residential school Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who at six was stripped of her shiny new orange shirt on her first day attending the St. Joseph Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, BC. The specific date at the end of September was chosen because this was the time of year when Indigenous children were removed from their families and sent to the more than 130 residential schools operating in Canada between 1831 and 1996.
TUFA encourages members to use the day as a day of education, for yourselves, your families, and your students. Attend an event in your community; read the Truth and Reconciliation reports. Reflect on the past and the children who attended residential schools. Consider their legacy and how we might create a very different future for children growing up Indigenous today.
Reconciliation requires more than a national holiday. It requires hard work on all our part to dismantle the structures of colonialism that are part of our lives and to rebuild a country that honours and respects the original inhabitants. It requires acts of imagination: acts that imagine all of us – indigenous and settler — differently. It requires the courage to act differently, to confront structures of power and privilege, and to create change. It starts with education. It starts with listening. It requires Solidarity.
We encourage you to participate in commemorative events at Trent and to work towards creating places of dignity and respect for Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere. We encourage you to act for the next seven generations.
David and Moira
Director, Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies
TUFA Grievance Officer
Department of Philosophy