September 26–30, 2022 is Truth and Reconciliation Week, and September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is also Orange Shirt Day, an initiative started by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad, Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, to raise awareness of residential schools and spread the message that every child matters.
The theme for Truth and Reconciliation Week 2022 is “Remembering the Children.”
In Canada, for more than 160 years, Indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools. At these schools, children suffered physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse and the loss of their language, traditions, and connections to the land. Many children died or went missing.
It’s estimated that over 150,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children were sent to residential schools before the last one, Gordon’s Indian Residential School in Punnichy, SK, closed in 1996. So far, The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has identified over 4,000 children who died at residential schools, but it is estimated that there are more. And this month, Canada hosted the first national gathering to discuss the unmarked graves found at residentials schools.
For Truth and Reconciliation Week 2022, we invite you to continue your educational journey with us.
This is not a complete list of resources, and we encourage everyone to spend more time researching and furthering their learning. We published an article last year with the following links:
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
Indigenous People can call The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for counselling and crisis intervention. Call 1-855-242-3310 or chat online.
LAND AND TRADITIONAL STEWARDSHIP
Many forests were considered “wild” or “unmanaged” before settlers arrived. In truth, Indigenous Peoples stewarded the land since time immemorial.
One example of traditional stewardship is the practice of forest gardens, where community members would make clearings in forests and plant fruits, nuts, berries, and medicines to sustain their community. After colonization and forced displacement, many of the gardens were left untended, but, even after 150 years, they have remained resilient and can still be found.
Another example is the practice of prescribed or cultural burns. For many years, these burns were banned or discouraged and used as another reason to displace communities as settlers blamed Indigenous Peoples for devastating wildfires. However, now we recognize that these smaller, controlled burns had long-term benefits to the land, and their ban contributed to the extreme wildfires we face today. Community members are now taking back the practice and doing cultural/prescribed burns once again.
For example, the Shackan Indian Band is doing more burns on their land to make it safer. As Lennard Joe, Chief Executive Officer of the BC First Nations Forestry Council, said, “It is our responsibility to push forward on our knowledge on the land.” The Líl̓wat First Nation has also resumed prescribed burns, as you can see in the video below.