This September 30th, 2021, will be Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day fulfils the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s #80 call-to-action. Previously referred to as “Orange Shirt Day,” this is a day to honour the communities, families and the Survivors of the Indigenous children who were affected by residential schools between 1860 and the 1990s, well into today. Take a read through our blog to learn more about the day, and to learn what you can do to help support the cause.
The History of Orange Shirt Day.
Orange Shirt Day first originated in 2013 as a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, British Columbia. The purpose of the events was to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. We wear an Orange Shirt in honour of former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad and her experience on her first day at residential school. Her grandmother had gifted her a brand new, orange shirt; a rare surprise because her family didn’t have a lot of money. The shirt represented excitement; just how 6-year-old Phyllis felt about going to school. But when she got to St. Joseph Mission Indian residential school, she was stripped of her orange shirt, and given the school’s uniform instead. Her new orange shirt was never returned. Since then, the colour orange has stood as a reminder of the injustices Phyllis, and thousands like her endured.
What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is part of a complicated series of reconciliation hearings and events. It is not a court and does not obtain any legal authority. Instead, its focus is more on restorative justice. The TRC is charged to listen to Survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the residential school system, and educate Canadians about their experience. The National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was created as part of the mandate of the TRC. It is a place of learning and dialogue so that victims, their families and communities may find healing. It is also a place of solace and reassurance that their trauma will not ever be repeated. The goal of the NCTR Archives and Collections is to have one central place where everyone is welcome to examine the residential school system more deeply in order to foster reconciliation and healing. The NCTR is located at the University of Manitoba.
What can you do on Orange Shirt Day?
There are many ways you can support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The following organizations have virtual events, tours, and resources available to partake in throughout the week leading up to September 30th, as well as on the day:
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- The Woodland Cultural Centre
- Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
- Orange Shirt Day
Here at Cayuga Mutual, we will recognize the day by wearing an orange “Every Child Matters” t-shirt and partake in digital events while being mindful of the importance of the day. We can all #DoSomething to support the cause, so whether you join a virtual event, wear an orange shirt in support, or support the cause in your own way, #DoSomething.