If you notice the flags at half mast next week at the District Education Support Centre and our schools it is one of the ways SD83 is recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. As you may be aware, the government recently passed legislation to make September 30 the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day provides an opportunity for each person to recognize the legacy of residential schools.
This announcement addresses one of the 94 calls to action of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission which called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
School District No. 83 schools incorporates curriculum that honours Indigenous ways of knowing and being every day, not just leading up to September 30, comments Superintendent of Schools Donna Kriger.
“I am passionate about listening to the voices of Indigenous Peoples and committed to be bringing about transformative change as the district continues its journey toward Truth and Reconciliation,” she adds.
District Principal of Indigenous Education Mishel Quaal reports in previous years schools would hold Orange Shirt Day activities on September 30 to raise awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact that this system had on Indigenous communities. These activities will continue but in most schools will probably be held leading up to September 30.
Orange Shirt Day is an event that started in 2013. The colour orange refers to the new shirt worn by six-year-old Phyllis Webstad on her first day at a residential school in Williams Lake, B.C., in 1976. Her orange shirt was taken away from her and she had to wear a uniform. Her story sparked a national movement to recognize the experience of survivors of Indian residential schools, honour them, and demonstrate a commitment to ensure that every child matters. This initiative calls for every Canadian to wear an orange shirt on September 30 in the spirit of healing and reconciliation. The date was chosen for the annual event because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools.
This year the design on SD83’s orange shirts was created by local Indigenous artist Tania Willard. Willard chose a hummingbird as it is a symbol of healing. As the hummingbird can fly in any direction it can heal the past, present and future. These little birds are also respected as fierce warriors.
During the residential school era it is estimated that:
- 150,000 children attended these schools.
- Over 6,000 died while attending these schools (based on partial federal government records).
- Approximately 80,000 survivors of these schools are alive today.