September 24th, 2021
On September 30, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) will acknowledge the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and participate in Orange Shirt Day.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
In June, the Government of Canada created the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new federally-recognized day, as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action #80:
“We call 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.”
This day is meant to provide the time and space to allow us to reflect on the atrocities this nation committed against the original inhabitants. Unlike most holidays, this is not seen as a day for celebration but rather one for reflection.
All WRDSB schools and offices will remain open for students and staff.
Truth and Reconciliation Week is from Monday, September 27 to Thursday, September 30. During this week, we invite you to share how you are learning and recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on social media by mentioning @wrdsb on Twitter or @wr_dsb on Instagram and using the hashtag #IndigenousWRDSB.
Orange Shirt Day
In addition to observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the WRDSB will continue to participate in Orange Shirt Day on September 30, as a way to honour residential school survivors, those who did not survive, and their descendants.
We invite students, staff and families to wear orange, whether it is a shirt, pin, ribbon, bracelet, socks, etc., and engage in meaningful conversation as a way to come together and recognize past transgressions towards Indigenous people.
Orange Shirt Day was first launched in 2013 and is based on Phyllis Webstad’s story of entering an Indian Residential School in 1973 and having her new orange shirt removed from her and replaced with a school uniform.
For well over a century, Indian Residential Schools were used as a tool to assimilate Indigenous peoples into the dominant Canadian culture. Established in 1892 by the Canadian government, in partnership with churches, Indigenous children were often moved long distances from their families and lived at the schools. Once at school, Indigenous children were forbidden to speak their languages and practice their cultures and traditions. Living conditions for students in Indian Residential Schools were often harsh and there was often significant emotional, physical and sexual abuse of the students.
Phyllis’ experience of having her orange shirt taken from her is symbolic of all that was taken from Indigenous peoples as a result of Indian Residential Schools and is why we wear orange on September 30.
Since May 2021, more than 3,000 unmarked graves have been recovered near the sites of former Indian Residential Schools. For anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience, the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
How to participate?
Take action. Educating ourselves about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day is just one of the ways non-Indigenous people can work toward reconciling our relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
Throughout our board, we are committed to supporting Indigenous voices, learning what we do not know, and implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action that relate to education and our community.
On August 16, our senior team kicked off the school year listening and learning from an Indigenous leader. During the session, he shared a story about his uncle who is a Residential school survivor. As a young boy, the uncle and other students had to dig a grave for a young girl. To this day he carries the pain of not remembering where she is.
As a community of educators, it is important for us to know these stories and help our students understand the reality of Residential schools. At the end of his talk, he performed a smudging ceremony and honoured the team by giving them a hawk feather.
This was one step in our path of ongoing learning.
We are committed from the administrative offices of the Education Centre to the classroom to listen to indigenous community members and share what we learn in our classrooms.
Want to do more?
As settlers to this land, it is our responsibility to take time to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples, the effects Indian Residential Schools have on Indigenous families, and the positive contributions Indigenous peoples have had and continue to have in our community, and across Canada.
We invite our community to wear orange on September 30th, whether that is a shirt or an accessory, to honour Residential school survivors and their families.
Donate to the Save the Evidence campaign. Save the Evidence is a campaign to raise awareness, support the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and develop the building into an Interpretive Historic Site and Educational Resource. Located in Brantford, ON, it is the closest former residential school to Waterloo Region, which stopped operating as a school in 1970, and is one of only a few residential school buildings still standing in Canada.
To help continue the learning and conversation at home, our Indigenous, Equity, and Human Rights Department, Indigenous Education Branch, has put together a resource page on our website to share books and resources that our educators and students have access to at school. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list of all resources we have in school libraries.
Truth must come before reconciliation. Learn about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action and the Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: Research Report identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Participate in the virtual Truth and Reconciliation Week (September 27 to October 1, 20201) events.