The Fraser River Indigenous Society is selling orange shirts in honour of the upcoming National Day of Truth and reconciliation.
The shirts feature the work of Chase Gray – a Musqueam, Vancouver-based queer xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and tsimshian artist – whose original design honoured the 215 children found on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school, explained Ginna Berg, the society’s executive director.
Since then the design has been adapted sightly but remains a powerful work, she said.
“FRIS has carried the original design as was gifted to the society to use on our shirts in honour of all the children and their stories have changed the conversation for many non-Indigenous peoples,” elaborated Berg.
An event is being held at Memorial Peace Park, downtown Maple Ridge, in collaboration with PLEA Community Services, that will feature shirt painting, drummers, a community art piece, bannock, activity tents, and an elders’ hospitality tent.
Roger Watts, with PLEA, said it is important for his organization to be involved in Truth and Reconciliation because they work with children, youth, and adults in care – and a majority of those are still Indigenous.
“That’s why supporting these Indigenous events and bringing awareness is important to us,” he explained.
In Maple Ridge, National Day of Truth and Reconciliation will begin at 9:50 a.m. with a grand entrance walk in led by the Katzie First Nation, drummers, and representatives from all the other organizations taking part in the day.
At 10 a.m. there will be the official opening including an official welcome by the Katzie First Nation and a traditional blessing by Katzie drummers.
Throughout the day there will be guest speakers and Indigenous performers. Elder Sunni Hill, Rayette Marsden, and Megan Healy will be sharing stories, there will be a sasquatch dancer and a jingle dancer.
There will be various activities taking place as well including an orange T-shirt making table with stencils of designs that people can choose from.
Artist Rosalie Dipcsu will be helping people contribute to a community art piece that will be presented to the Katzie First Nation when finished.
“This will be the token of the day and the memory of the day showing how our community is all coming together to support the Indigenous community and is what Truth and Reconciliation really means,” noted Watts.
The inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was marked last year. According to Bill C-5, the day is meant to, “honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors and their families and communities and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Orange shirts are worn to commemorate the day after the story of former residential school student Phyllis Webstad’s story of her first day at residential school when she was only six-years-old and a new orange shirt bought by her grandmother was taken away from her.
The Orange Shirt Society explained how Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for Canadians to have meaningful discussions about the effects of residential schools and the legacy they left behind.
“It is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come,” explained the society online.
Residential schools for Indigenous children came into existence in the 17th century and some were still in existence in the late 1990’s. The Government of Canada estimates that around 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools where a system was, “imposed on Indigenous peoples as part of a broad set of assimilation efforts to destroy their rich cultures and identities and to suppress their histories”.
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation will be marked from 10-2 p.m. at 11930 224 St. in Maple Ridge.
Shirts are being sold for $15 each at the Fraser River Indigenous Society at 11830 223 St., second floor.
For more information about the orange shirts call 604-458-0151. Information about the artist can be found at gaysalishart.com.
Mental health supports are available for former residential school students at 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and information on other health supports from the Government of Canada.
Indigenous peoples across Canada can also go to The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention.
Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat.
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