Sep 30 2021, is going to be an inaugural day designated to commemorate the hardships suffered by many indigenous children in residential schools and the discovery of the 215 unmarked graves of children, at the Kamloops residential school as the first of many sites. The day has been symbolically marked by wearing an Orange Shirt, with a slogan that #everychildmatters
Coming up to the day, there have been many questions about what does this day stand for and what can we do as settlers to address this indigenous inequity and discrimination. As is with most difficult conversations, let’s start with sharing the truth.
Residential schools operated in Canada from the 1780s until 1996. An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend these schools, where they experienced abuse, neglect and illness. Nearly 80,000 survivors of those schools are still alive today. These schools had the sole objective of assimilation of indigenous children into mainstream white Canadian society while systematically obliterating their indigenous culture and language. Children were separated from their parents and subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse by the residential school staff. Often resulting in deaths of many of them.
The significance of Sep 30 is a day for all settlers to reflect and commemorate the atrocities and deaths of many of these young innocent indigenous children that is the legacy of Canada, and trauma for the survivors, their families and the Indigenous communities.
Few things that we can do to continue this conversation –
- Share the truth about what happened in these residential schools, listen to stories from residential school survivors without judgement and with open heart to understand their struggles .
- Understand the significance of the Orange shirt – read Pyllis Webstag’s story — https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html
- Why Sep 30 – It was the time of the year when indigenous children would be taken away from their homes and families to the residential schools. It is also a day to continue the conversation of anti-racism and anti-bullying in schools, institutions and communities across Canada.
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued “94 calls to action – requesting an urgent change in policies and programs to repair the damage done by these residential schools – we can read about these here https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2091412-trc-calls-to-action.html
Reconciliation can only happen when the truth is understood, shared and actions taken to stop such atrosities from ever happening again. As settlers lets collectively work towards accepting the truth, and doing our very best towards justice, and commit to equitable inclusion of our nation’s indigenous communities.