This Orange Shirt Day is different

Indigenous Film, Orange Shirt Day, Residential Schools, TRC

September 30, 2021

In the past we’ve promoted Indian Horse and The Grizzlies to educators as films for discussion on Orange Shirt Day. But this year is different and we wanted to reach out beyond educators, to talk about how we feel about this newly declared National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-created grassroots movement started by Phyllis Webstad to raise awareness about the residential school system in Canada. Indian Horse and The Grizzlies are powerful and moving dramatic films, fictionalized, but based on truth and true histories.

We know that for many of us, and for many of you the evidence of the unmarked graves that started with the Kamloops Indian Residential School this past summer has been a series of re-traumatizing events. For many non-Indigenous Canadians it has been a huge shock. But for those who had heard these stories, or experienced first-hand – this was not a ‘discovery’ as the media often falsely portrays it, but rather evidence of a state-sanctioned crime scene. And so it does not feel right to send out a cheerful promotional email but rather a reminder that we in a time of reckoning. We cannot lose sight of truth as we yearn for reconciliation. And for those of us who are not Indigenous – we need to become, or stay uncomfortable. All is not well. 

As Tanya Talaga tweeted: “Today is a day to listen to survivors, to honour the children lost, found and those we seek. Be gentle, kind, it is an emotional day. Above all, think what you can do to bring change. #EveryChildMatters

And it is in this context that a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation has been declared, a government-led holiday, answering the call from the TRC years and years after 94 calls to action were launched in 2015. We deeply hope this late September day, in these many ways, will inspire truthful conversations about reconciliation and systemic racism as well as the power of the grassroots, of storytelling. 

So once again we’ve lowered the price for both Indian Horse and The Grizzlies educational licenses on DVD and digital. Indian Horse is also available on Netflix in Canada. We encourage everyone to seek out these films and also the free study materials we’ve created to accompany them. To assist, we’re providing free access to the Indian Horse e-learning modules whether you have bought an educational licence or not – available until the end of October.

If you are non-Indigenous please take the time today to listen and reflect in ways that do not place an emotional burden on Indigenous people. Be gentle. 

And if you are Indigenous, know that we stand in solidarity for truth and for justice – both of which must prevail before Reconciliation can be possible. Be gentle with yourselves. 

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Jada, wu’Was’Ulwat, Snuneymuxw and Saanich Nations, says:  “In my life, every day is orange shirt day. Every day reveals the impacts of Residential ‘schools.’ I am the first generation of my family to not be stolen and held hostage in one of those places.