On the 30th of September every year, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities across Canada are brought to the forefront of society’s collective attention. Their culture and heritage radiate throughout the country. People sporting orange shirts are featured throughout the media as a way to highlight the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.
As a society, we are challenged to consider ways that we can better understand, support, and advocate for awareness and change throughout the country.
During the observation of this day, we learn about the Indigenous people’s historical trauma arising from the residential school systems. The theme for this year is ‘Honouring Survivors’ and we are encouraged to remember all the children who have suffered through this experience, some surviving and others not making it back home.
In this article, we discuss the history and impact of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the significance of wearing orange, and what people can do to help with the cause.
The Origin of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
Survivors of the residential school system called for action to be taken by the government and as one of its responses, Canada established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their purpose is to document the experiences of survivors, their families, communities, and other parties affected by residential schools. The commission began its work in 2008 and released its final report in 2015, which contains 94 Calls to Action. Orange Shirt Day was also established on the same day for this same purpose.
The Significance of the Orange Shirt
Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led initiative that was inspired by the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a residential school survivor from British Columbia.
The orange shirt serves as a reminder of the Indigenous people’s history and wearing it shows an acknowledgment of their past trauma and our support and commitment to reconciliation.
Ways to Show Continuous Support and Advocacy
Learning about the history and struggles of the Indigenous people of Canada may inspire a desire to support their cause and we have highlighted some ways here:
Education and Awareness
Educating ourselves is the first step in showing solidarity towards Indigenous communities. Learning about their history gives us a better sense of what actions we can take to support them. We can also support them by creating awareness for their initiatives through sharing information with others.
Sundance College students can access the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation course at a discounted rate of $25 (ask your instructor).
There are many resources available to learn more about the Indigenous Peoples of Canada:
Participation and Volunteering
One of the main goals of Indigenous communities is to ensure that their history and culture are passed down to future generations to preserve their identity.
During Orange Shirt Day, we can participate by wearing orange shirts and volunteering in different events and activities hosted by Indigenous organizations.
Here are some organizations that accept volunteers:
Donation and Funding
Providing financial support that caters to Indigenous people will help build capacity for more services beneficial to them.
Here are some foundations that provide support to the Indigenous People:
Continuous Support and Advocacy
Sundance College’s Addictions and Community Health Professional Instructor, Selena N. notes, “there are so many other ways we can contribute meaningfully but at the heart of this conversation is listening to Indigenous people and what they need.”
Offering support and advocacy is something we can all strive to do, not only on this day of recognition, but throughout the year.