We Are All Treaty People

Regina's Orange Shirt Day 2018

  • Published - 29/09/2018
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  • Posted By - OTC
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Office of the Treaty Commissioner director of speakers bureau Amy Seeseequasis attended Regina's Orange Shirt Day events to deliver words on the importance of the day. She shares those words here:
Greetings to you all my relations here in Treaty 4 territory. I am honored to be here today to share some words on behalf of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

Orange Shirt Day is an important way for us to collectively honour the Indigenous children who survived Indian Residential School (IRS), and those who did not. There are 80,000 federally recognized IRS survivors, but research shows that number is probably closer to 150,000. One out of every 25 children who attended IRS did not survive and make it back home to their families and communities. There are currently 80 federally recognized IRS, although research shows that between 1840 to 1996, there were closer to 350 IRS operating across Canada.

As Treaty people, we have responsibilities to each other as Treaty partners to honor and respect each other’s shared histories. This particular day reminds us of that shared history, and those shared treaty responsibilities.

Children require love, affection, nourishment and rest to grow and develop in a healthy manner.

When a child is denied those basic human needs they become physically and emotionally damaged, and more often than not, the effects of this can leave lifelong negative repercussions.

Upon Treaty signing, the relationship was severed, and a breach of Treaty took place when on-reserve schools instead became IRS due to legislation imposed under the Indian Act. It became mandatory for Indigenous children to attend and assimilation into non-Indigenous society became the primary focus of these schools. The government appointed the church systems to operate these schools.

Children in IRS were forcibly and traumatically removed from their families, communities and cultures. They were hauled away on the back of cattle trucks while heartbroken parents watched them leave in anguish. If they did not comply, they would face prosecution from the government.

Upon entering these schools they had their culture stripped of them with the removal off all their belongings and the cutting of their hair. Daily life consisted of prayer, work, eat, prayer, school, eat, school, work, eat, pray, sleep, repeat.

However, prayer in their own languages and in their own spiritual practices was denied. Work consisted of labor in maintaining the schools; farming, gardening, cooking, cleaning, sewing. Although there was fresh produce and agro foods, the children were never fed healthy meals. Food was of poor quality and proper nourishment was not received. Rest was not adequate and was hindered from poor quality beds, improper heating, long work hours, and fear of abuse, or suffering from abuse.

Children were subject to inhumane conditions and neglectful and abusive treatment in IRS. The effects of the mental, spiritual, physical and sexual abuses has left a legacy that requires a responsibility by us here presently to honor those IRS survivors and those who did not survive.

The legacy of the IRS has left an intergenerational trauma that has shown itself in the prevalent social issues amongst our Indigenous treaty relations. However, our Indigenous treaty partners are resilient and have retained the ability to share culture and guide the healing of their fellow IRS, and their kin experiencing intergenerational traumas. In the spirit and intent of treaty, which is based on the circular and holistic worldview of our Indigenous treaty partners, we are beginning to demonstrate reciprocity to each other, and are at a time of regrowth and renewal.

We see it with the honoring of our survivors at an event like today's Orange Shirt Day. Although the treaty relationship was breached with the enactment of the Indian Act and the legislation of IRS, we have to remember that nothing in the circle ever really dies out. Although that treaty relationship may wear thin, and lose strength over time, it can always be reborn again. There is always a continuation of the circle.

By recognizing the history of IRS and honoring the IRS survivors, we are honoring that relationship we have to each other as treaty partners.

Thank you to the City of Regina for organizing this Orange Shirt Day event and inviting the Office of the Treaty Commissioner to participate. I wish you all a good day and a safe weekend.