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September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honors the children who never returned home, the Survivors of Indian Residential Schools, as well as 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.

Orange Shirt Day is a 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. This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself.  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. Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project.  As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, 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. 

The educational journeys of so many of my relations have been affected by the ongoing impacts of the Indian Residential Schools. I implore you to learn more and to build relationships within the community with Indigenous peoples, to ensure there is a common understanding and respect that will only lead to more successes of Indigenous learners within the programs you offer. 

The Truth and Reconcilliation 94 Calls to Action represent the first step toward redressing the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and advancing the process of reconciliation, said the Honorable Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC.

Since the release of the TRC findings, many educators, researchers and post-secondary institutions are committing to learning more about the Calls to Action and also about how to implement them. While there are still more truths to be told and an urgent need to “work with” Indigenous Peoples instead of “do for” , which is the colonial posture, there is also a need to intentionally and respectfully engage in the work that responds to the Calls to Action.

There are specific Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action that relate to Education, they are as follows:

#62 – Educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.

#63 a) – Develop and implement curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.

#63 b) – Build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

#64 – Incorporate and develop teachings on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders and traditional knowledge keepers.

Calgary Learns is committed to honoring and learning through the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action. In keeping with this commitment, we are intentional about supporting our grant-funded organizations to learn more about what it means to step into truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and to offer relevant learning opportunities and programming to Indigenous adult learners at the foundational level. Over the years we have listened to and learned from the Indigenous community while engaging in a number of projects to enhance support for Indigenous adults working at building their foundational skills and confidence. We are, as a granting organization and as staff, on our own journey to reconciliation. Learn more about our work here.

There are many wonderful learning opportunities online and in person that you can attend. There are many places to visit to hear the truth-telling of Indigenous peoples in this area. I ask that you take this day to act. To do something in your personal and professional circles that can make a difference. 

Wear your orange shirt on September 30th, but remember that Indigenous peoples wear it 24/7, 365 days a year, and are still suffering under the same policies that allowed for the creation of Indian Residential Schools. Our children are overrepresented in the foster care system, our people are overrepresented in the prison system, racism exists in ALL systems like healthcare and education, and there remain discriminatory funding practices for on-reserve services. This is not an exhaustive list, there is so much that we continue to rise up against every day. We need allies, we need people to show up, and we need action. 

What are you going to be doing on September 30th?

References:

https://www.orangeshirtday.org/

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html

Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report:

Identifying Indigenous Literacy Needs in Calgary:

Suggested Films:

  • Indian Horse (101 min)
  • Our People Will Be Healed (97 min)
  • The Secret Path (41 min)
  • We Were Children (1hr 23mins)

Suggested Books:

  • ‘The Orange Shirt Story’ by  Phyllis Webstad
  • ‘Dear Canada: These Are My Words: the Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens’ by Ruby Slipperjack 
  • ‘Five Little Indians’ by Michelle Good
  • ‘Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation’ by Monique Gray Smith
  • ‘In The Shadow of the Red Brick Building’ by Raymond Tony Charlie

Purchase an Orange Shirt from an Indigenous Artist: 

Some events happening in Calgary:

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