We Are All Treaty People

OTC marks Orange Shirt Day

  • Published - 30/09/2021
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  • Posted By - OTC
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The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept 30 is the opportunity to recognize and commemorate the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour the survivors, their families and communities. The day was established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

Also known as Orange Shirt Day, wearing orange on September 30 continues to be a way to honour Residential School Survivors. Orange Shirt Day was inspired by the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who had a beautiful orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, that was taken from her as a six-year old on her first day at residential school.

Some of our team at the OTC share their perspectives on the importance of Sept. 30.

Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan, Mary Culbertson
“Residential schools only closed here in this province in 1996. We are surrounded by survivors and intergenerational survivors of all ages, their experiences must be honoured and it is our generation today and our next generations that are in our schools that will carry forward the understanding and education about these experiences and these systems that have caused such devastating effects on culture, language, identity and families. Reconciliation is about the truth, repairing relationships, building relationships. Without the truth there can be no reconciliation. Building relationships is vital to the restoration of Treaty relationships in this province. We need to ensure we are taking the time this day and throughout the days and years coming as recoveries of burial places of children will be coming to light. We have intergenerational trauma, but we have journeys of intergenerational healing too.”

Angie Merasty, Director of Operations
"The Indian Residential School Legacy continues to this day. This is a terrible legacy for Canada. First Nations children were taken from their homes, ripped from their parents arms. It happened and it can't unhappen. This is the true history.

The significant disparities in education, health, and income between Indigenous people and other Canadians still affects Indigenous people negatively. We face high rates of poverty, food insecurity, mental and physical health issues, addictions and death by suicide.

Despite everything that has happened, we are still here! We are still standing, moving forward. We are educated. We are employed. We contribute to society no matter where we live! We are making great contributions in every community, town, city we live in.

Orange Shirt Day is a very important and special day. It is the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. It is a chance for everyone to learn about the Residential Schools, remember all the children who never made it home and honour the survivors that did.

My hope is that every single Canadian takes a moment to listen, to learn and to share what they have learned with others. Acknowledge the shared history, acknowledge that you cannot have reconciliation without the truth and lets all make sure that it doesn't ever happen again."

Kalina Alexis, Executive Assistant, Treaty Commissioner Culbertson
“This year Orange Shirt Day comes with extremely heavy hearts as 6,509 indigenous children have been unearthed from mass graves. It is time to bring our children home. As Indigenous people we are hurting, angry, and we are grieving. So, in the wise words of Larissa Crawford I’d like to say, “If you feel the need to frantically preform truth and reconciliation this week - don’t. Fulfill the responsibility of listening, sit with the discomfort of your ignorance and inaction, and let that inspire you to never feel this way again.”

Rhett Sangster, Director, Reconciliation and Community Partnerships
“Orange Shirt Day for me is a chance to honour the Survivors of the Indian Residential Schools and to acknowledge the trauma that they and their families have endured and continue to endure as a result of Canada’s attempts to assimilate Indigenous people. As a father, I think about my own school age children, and try to imagine what it would have been like to have my children taken away to a school far from home, where they would have learned that my language and culture was inferior and in need of “civilizing”. I take the advice of Survivors and I hug my kids close, thankful that I’ll never have to endure such a nightmare. And I resolve myself to humbly do what I can to make things right – to promote wahkotowin on the Treaty territory that I so love.

On September 30 I’ll be speaking to the Saskatchewan fransaskoises school division about how teachers and schools can advance truth and reconciliation. Then I’ll go with my family to Wanuskewin to be on the land and to take in the activities they are organizing for National Truth and Reconciliation Day.”

Amy Seesequasis, Director of Public Education
"Orange Shirt Day and the national day of Truth and Reconciliation is an important day to recognize the legacy of residential schools and honor those who survived, those who did not, and those affected by the intergenerational traumas of that legacy. It is a day to recognize the truth, although difficult and hurtful, so that we can have meaningful reconciliation. For over 150+ years Indigenous children attended residential schools and the impact has had profound impact generation after generation. We know many of our kin did not return home from these government and church run institutions, and we continue to search for them and honor them today and everyday day. 

For myself, as an Indigenous woman who is the first generation in my family line to not have attended, I will spend the day with my loved ones. Together, we will honor my Dad, my in-laws, all my aunts and uncles, my paternal and maternal Kohkum and Moshum, and all survivors of residential schools, as well as our kin who did not make it home. We will do so by sharing in eachother's company, laughter, affection and love, because in these schools our Indigenous kin were denied this. 

Today is a day to honour and recognize, but also to become more aware, more educated, more compassionate and more accountable to Indigenous people. This can be achieved by learning their histories, listening to their stories and truths, and respecting their rights, dignities, causes, cultures, communities, languages, and children."