By Eula Mengullo, September 27 2023—
The end of September marks the commemoration of the harmful impacts of Canada’s ongoing colonial legacy. On Sept. 29, the Office of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Calgary — in partnership with Calgary Public Library — will be hosting in-person and livestreamed special events on campus and the Central Library to honour Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
From 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Cadmus Delorme — a Cree and Saulteaux and former chief of Cowessess First Nation — will be sharing a presentation titled What We Inherited and Better Understanding Our Role in Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall at the U of C. Later in the day a film screening of Beans — a coming-of-age story that follows a Mohawk girl during the Oka Crisis — will be taking place at the Central Library from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Since the launch of the U of C’s Indigenous strategy ii’taa’poh’to’p in 2017, the university has taken an education-centred approach to reconciliation, ensuring students have learning opportunities that shed light on the oppressive and violent aspects of colonization.
“The residential school system, enforced by law for approximately 150 years, was a key assimilation tactic of colonization rooted in racism and driven by a sense of power, privilege and dominion,” read a statement on the Office of Indigenous Engagement website from the Acting Vice-Provost of Indigenous Engagement, Dr. Shawna Cunningham.
Orange Shirt Day, which is commemorated on Sept. 30, honours the survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School system — whereby Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families to be assimilated into mainstream culture and were often abused in these institutions — as well as those who were never able to return home. The colour orange symbolizes the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children for generations. Orange Shirt Day aims to raise awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential school while emphasizing the notion that “Every Child Matters.”
Taking place on the same date, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a time to recognize and reflect upon the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools. This is in direct response to number 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls-to-Action, which recommends the establishment of a statutory holiday that will allow for public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada. At the same time, it is also a chance to recognize and honour Survivors and Indigenous resilience.
“It is important for us, as an academic institution, to strive towards a more equitable and inclusive future through education — a transformative education system that recognizes, respects and creates space for Indigenous experiences, knowledge, languages and cultures,” read the rest of the statement.
“Coming together to listen, learn, and reflect on the legacy of residential schools is an opportunity to open our minds, our hearts and our communities to a better future, built together in a good way, a future where every child matters.”
To register and learn more about the events being hosted by the U of C and Central Library, visit their websites.