Orange Shirt Day marks ‘the truth part’ of reconciliation

Peggy Forbes (standing) of Durham College's First Peoples Indigenous Centre with students during Orange Shirt Day, 2017.

Students may notice some people wearing orange T-shirts on campus Friday, Sept. 28.

It’s all part of Orange Shirt Day, symbolizing the awareness of residential schools, in which Indigenous children were removed from their homes and placed in government-sponsored institutions to assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture. The residential school system operated between 1831 and 1996.

Orange Shirt Day events are being held in many provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, according to organization’s website. It all started in B.C. in 2013.

Orange Shirt Day is on Sunday, Sept. 30 (which represents the date many Indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools). Since this year’s Orange Shirt Day falls on a Sunday, officials are encouraging participants to choose a day which allows for greater awareness. The First Peoples Indigenous Centre (FPIC) at Durham is staging a couple of events this week.

The FPIC is hosting a viewing of the movie ‘Indian Horse’, Sept. 25, in the Global Classroom in the Centre for Collaborative Education (CFCE) building from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

‘Indian Horse’ is a film adaptation of the novel by Richard Wagamese, which follows a young boy who is taken from his family and culture and placed in a Canadian Catholic residential school.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Elder Shirley Williams and Mary Kelly, who are survivors of residential schools.

Indigenous coach at the FPIC, Julie Pigeon, describes the film as “not a true account, but is based on true history.”

The film is also being shown to bring awareness to Orange Shirt Day.

Orange shirts can be purchased at the viewing of ‘Indian Horse’ and through the FPIC, also located in the CFCE. Shirts are $20. Proceeds will go towards FPIC’s new language program, launching this January, where Indigenous families will be given the opportunity to learn the Anishinaabemowin language (the original language in the Oshawa area).

“Not everybody understands or even knows about the Indian residential school system,” says Pigeon. She says this event is in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

The TRC was established in June, 2008 as part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

“This is the truth part … the part where all Canadians need to be educated on what happened, on what our shared history is,” says Pigeon.

The FPIC will be hosting new events this year including speakers, such as a traditional knowledge keeper of medicines. These will be held on a monthly basis, the first Tuesdays of October through December and the second Tuesday of January.

The FPIC also hosts cedar tea circles for Indigenous students and community members. These circles are every Wednesday and switch locations from the FPIC and the Carea Community Centre, 115 Grassmere Ave., in Oshawa.