September 30th is Orange Shirt Day in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as an affirmation to the commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters. It grew out of Phyllis’ story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph Mission Residential School, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. The date for Orange Shirt Day was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools
Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for all people living on this land we now call Canada to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and decolonization. Reconciliation is developing relationships between Indigenous and settler peoples based on equality and respect. It’s learning to work together, nation-to-nations, so that all people living on this land can achieve their full potential. Decolonization is the process of trying to repair the damage caused by colonization. All of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, can work towards decolonization, although our paths will look a little different. Both reconciliation and decolonization are about coming together to heal from the injustices done on this land and its original peoples. Check out our section on decolonization and our list of recommended readings to learn more.
You can take part in Orange Shirt Day by:
- Wearing an Orange Shirt on September 30th
- Organizing or participating in an event
- Learning the shared colonial history of what we now call Canada
- Learning about local Indigenous history, culture, ceremony and world views
- Demand your schools and teachers incorporate Indigenous perspectives into your education
Reconciliation is a pretty big concept. It can happen in big ways through changes in government or with institutions like schools and in small ways through the actions we personally take. A road map of 94 recommendations has been set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was developed as a way to heal and move forward from our shared history of residential schools. This road map will take more than one generation to fully realize reconciliation. There is a lot of healing and learning that needs to happen first.
We’ve never done reconciliation before, so sometimes it can be hard to imagine. There will be moments where people stumble or try something that doesn’t work, but the important thing is to stay committed to working together. A good starting place for reconciliation is through education.