Reconciliation Saskatoon is encouraging everyone to take steps to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept 30, and use this moment to deepen your commitment to fostering change.
The federal statutory holiday was passed this year by the Government of Canada to recognize and commemorate the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour their survivors, their families and communities. The day was established in response to the 80th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
The move came shortly after the remains of children were discovered in late May by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. More remains have been found since then, and more searches are underway across the country. The original report estimated that 6,000 children died while attending the schools, although many people expect the number to be much higher.
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.
Do more than just wear orange. Take time to learn about the residential school impact and legacy, have a conversation about colonization, make a commitment and find someone to be accountable with, and use the day to meaningfully engage in reconciliation.
ConnectR was created to give you the ideas and resources you need to learn about truth and reconciliation, work against racism, understand the impacts of colonization, foster healing and relationship-building, and ultimately engage in making change.
To honour the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we created the following tools to inspire action and help you along this path.
At Reconciliation Saskatoon, we rely on the leadership and wisdom of Knowledge Keepers and Residential School Survivors who inform everything we do. This fall, we met with a few of them and heard their stories before creating this resource page for you. Here are a few special moments we wanted to share with you:
“I want to talk about the shame-based life I lived most of my life. I was ashamed of my parents, I was ashamed to be First Nations, until I found out that I was colonized. That set me free. I understood why I was the way I was and I understand why my parents are the way they are. And I understood why I went to residential school. I want the youth to know about colonization and how for the First Nations people It will set them free if they are ashamed.
The orange shirts represent freedom for me, it represents who I really am and it’s okay, it’s okay now. Now I know the truth and people know the truth, and I don’t have to be ashamed anymore. I don’t want my grandchildren to be ashamed of me, I don’t want them to be ashamed to be FN, I want them to be proud and wear their orange shirt.”
“Orange shirt day is more than about residential schools and survivors, it’s about the young people today. The ones that have a chance.
Don’t stay at home. We need to go out to the street on Orange Shirt Day. Maybe someone will be asking, why are you wearing this shirt and you can tell them why. The students where should learn about Indian people and the struggles that they lived and they are continuing living today.”
“Orange Shirt Day, when that came out, I felt so acknowledged. Residential school has affected me, very deep to my core. I’m 62 years old and I just started healing. I took many years. And I don’t want the next generation to take that long. The more awareness that is there the faster they can heal.”
Special thanks to the following people who shared stories, ideas and experiences that influenced the shape of these resources: Reconciliation Saskatoon Youth Advocates Kristian St. Onge and Anastasia Hauser; Youth Advocate leaders Dave Shanks and Kristine Divall; Angela Daigneault, Saskatoon Police Service/Facilitator of the Reconciliation Saskatoon Healing Action Group; Shirley Isbister, President CUMFI); Knowledge Keepers/Residential School Survivors Violet Naytowhow and John Merasty; Residential School Survivors Dorah Montgrande and Marina Gardypie; Reconciliation Saskatoon’s Carrie Catherine and Warren Isbister-Bear, City of Saskatoon/Reconciliation Saskatoon co-chair.
And thanks to for your support: Saskatoon Community Foundation, Community Initiatives Fund, SaskCulture