McGill to mark Orange Shirt Day with music, storytelling and a march

Students at St. Edmund’s Elementary School in Beaconsfield rehearse with

Orange Shirt Day has been celebrated across Canada in recent years to raise awareness of the tragic legacy of Canada’s residential schools – places where, for decades, Indigenous children were taken from their homes, parents, their culture and their language. With the horrific discoveries of thousands of children’s bodies at the former sites of several schools last spring and summer, many Canadians learned for the first time that the residential school system even existed.

Orange Shirt Day commemorates the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor from the Canoe Creek Indian Band in British Columbia. On the first day of her boarding school, when she was 6 in the mid-1970s, the nuns who ran the school forced her to take off the new orange shirt her grandmother had given her and put on a uniform. school. . Since the story became widely known, the orange shirt has come to symbolize the legacy of forced assimilation, but also a symbol of resilience and reaffirmation.

The Orange Shirt Day event Skàtne Entewathahìta (“We will walk together” in Mohawk) began at McGill’s Faculty of Education in 2019. This year’s third annual event will take place on Thursday, September 30 as part of the new holiday. To follow all the day’s events at McGill marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Click here.

Hope and Healing

Period of study at the Roman Catholic Indian residential school, [Fort] Resolution, Northwest Territories BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives of Canada

What began three years ago at the Faculty of Education as a way to address the Educational Calls to Action in the TRC has evolved into a collaboration with members of the Kahnawà:ke community, students and teachers from St. Edmund Elementary School in Beaconsfield, as well as several McGill groups, including First People’s House, the Indigenous Initiative’s Unit, the Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative (ISCEI), the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education (OFNIE), the Artful Inquiry Research Group (AIRG), the Institute for Human Development and Wellbeing (IHDW) and More than Words.

“This year’s theme is Hope and Healing,” says Claudia Mitchell, a professor in the Faculty of Education’s Department of Integrated Studies and one of the event’s co-organizers, along with associate professor Mindy R. Carter. at the Faculty. education. “It’s really to highlight the reflection that’s so needed right now, but also this idea of ​​emphasizing hope when considering a way forward.

“To hope is to be actively involved in the process of renewal, of healing, of learning multiple truths, stories and counter-stories when thinking about reconciliation,” says Carter. “The education panel is meant to give people an education on CRT – and so the storytelling part of that will be very, very important – but also this idea that we’re trying to move forward together, that’s really an important part. of that.”

Student-led march begins on McTavish

Starting at 10 a.m., the Faculty of Education will host a virtual panel led by Elder Geraldine Standup (traditional healer, Kahnawà:ke), as well as two other Kahnawà:ke residents, Tom Dearhouse and Ron Boyer. Nina Segalowitz, an Inuit throat singer, will also perform with St. Edmund’s students a song from their original musical “Reconciliation,” coordinated by their music teacher Jennifer Hayden-Benn, a graduate of the Faculty’s M.Ed. of Education at McGill.

At noon, a student-led march is due to begin on McTavish Street, which will join marches from other groups, including the Native Women’s Shelter. The Orange Shirt Day marches will end at Place du Canada.

Elizabeth J. Harless