Orange Shirt Day – This year, Canadians have a new statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. How can we make sure that the horrible history of residential schools is never repeated?
Like many of you, I’m learning more about this history, so we don’t make the same mistake. And like me, you probably want to find out how you can support the healing process.
In this article, you’ll find 6 simple actions you and your family can do to make a difference.
What’s orange shirt day?
On September 30th, it’s the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to reflect and remember the terrible history of residential schools. That’s also the day to wear an orange shirt to show your support.
The orange shirt movement was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s experience on her first day arriving at a residential school. Please click on the link to listen to her original story.
How much do you know about the dark history?
Here’s the thing, how much do you actually know about the history? Unless you’ve taken some programs and go deeper, chances are not much.
Some people think it’s history long gone, but the last residential school didn’t close its door until 1996. That means if a child was 5 back then, she/he is 30 now. Just imagine how difficult it would be to live with that traumatic experience.
When I took the Early Learning and Care program, many of my classmates expressed how they only learned a very shallow history about residential schools in secondary school. So having a guest speaker come in and talk to us at our college really changed our perspectives. Hopefully these tips will help change your perspective and get you interested to learn more.
6 simple actions you can take
#1. Learn about indigenous history & rich culture
There’s nothing better than real experience. So visit a museum, art gallery, or local indigenous sites to see and appreciate them. You can also join local volunteer groups and events to learn indigenous history & culture.
You can always look things up on YouTube, too! It’s all about learning and appreciation, so check out indigenous languages, music, cultural events e.t.c. Better understanding brings us closer.
#2. Wear orange items
Simply wear something orange for orange shirt day! Many businesses support the cause and sell T-shirts. However, since it’s just 4 days away, you may have a difficult time finding them.
If you can’t find an official shirt, do a scavenger hunt for orange items. If you enjoy DIY, make something easy like a pin made with felt (see the picture above). Or make a mask if you’re a sewer, and wear them!
#3. Make and display signs or art for orange shirt day
Just like the heart display for front line workers, create a sign/art to raise awareness for the orange shirt day. It’ll be a fun activity for children. At the same time, we are creating a learning opportunity. Don’t forget to display what you create!
#4. Have a conversation
This is one of the greatest ways to make a change. Whether talking to your family & friends or others in your community, have a conversation. In order to create change, we have to raise awareness.
Surprisingly, the best people to ask may be your children. I’ve been inspired by the rich learning opportunities the teachers in our school district provide for the students. The whole school community is such a positive influence for our children.
Remember to ask open questions like “What do you know about orange shirt day?” Many children will be happy to share what they’ve learned.
#5. Read books/articles on orange shirt day
There are plenty of websites, reading materials and audio books available to help your family understand about residential schools. Make sure you read more to learn about the history.
#6. Write a letter
My last suggestion is to write a letter to the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament. What kind of change would you like to see in the future? Think about what could benefit us all to achieve true reconciliation. It may require changing a law, so we need to let our government know our thoughts.
On the other hand, you can contact your local indigenous groups for more information about them. Or write another letter whenever you get inspired or simply write a letter of gratitude. Remember, we all need support for going though a healing process.
As a landed immigrant, I didn’t know much about Canada’s dark history. I came to Canada in 1998, and finally learned about the residential schools in 2013.
Now that I have my own family and am working with children, I want to make sure it never happens again. Imagine how you would feel if the government took your children?
Do you think it’s long-gone history? Or an on-going tragedy that requires a lot of work?
It’s hard to hear the full extent of what happened, but we have to walk hand in hand with indigenous people or there is no true reconciliation.
I hope you choose one of the 6 choices above and take action for orange shirt day!