Today is the tenth anniversary of Orange Shirt Day. Following the respectful protocols of all Indigenous Peoples around the world, we include the history as a way of honouring the work done. Orange Shirt Day was created by Phyllis Webstad of the Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band).
As a collective of Indigenous and Settler folks, we at Drawing Wisdom have an intersectional experience with Orange Shirt Day. We have been following and working towards implementing the calls to action in our work. In 2021, the Canadian government made September 30th an official holiday, and this year it is a statutory holiday. Meaning, it is a paid day off for certain workers.
We’ve decided to share a few of the ways Orange Shirt Day lands amongst some of our Drawing Wisdom team.
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. I often feel my family was stolen from me before I was even born.
Aspects of the culture of those institutions live in my home: within my family of origin we struggle to carve out intimacy, we lack nurturing expressions of love, many of us share a chronic fear of the system (medical, educational, police and government) and more drastically I have family members struggling with chronic pain, poverty, homelessness and addiction.
While I live with these realities I rail against them: every day I lean into healing as a way of radical decolonization. I remain connected to my people. I practice gentle parenting, sing our songs, pray in our language, weave, bead, drum and canoe with my canoe family. These connections are not just my birthright, they were the birthright snatched from every child stolen from their families, every child who never came home and every Indigenous person we meet today.”
Kat, of Irish/Scottish Settler descent, says: “As a settler working on these issues, I have very complicated feelings about the Canadian government making the day into a statutory holiday – by giving everyone (with the luxury of having an actual job) a day ‘off’ – it makes the likelihood of people simply taking the long weekend off pretty much a given. It also betrays what was starting to happen with Orange Shirt Day in that it was a significant teaching moment within schools. Of course, they are still organizing curricula and events around it, we know this because we always get inundated with requests for materials around this time. It also creates a bit of a sensation of ‘this is the day’ for this work and the rest of the year is not.”
So let’s change this. Here are some ideas:
Watch the Films for Dialogue we have provided free until Oct 5 (and give us feedback please!)
Read at least one of the 94 Calls to Action relevant to your work – and commit to taking action around it.
Explore some of the other Indigenous-led organizations and their initiatives and support them.
Consider appropriate direct donations to Indigenous people and their projects – with no strings attached.
And please, do not ask or expect Indigenous people to perform, respond, or placate you if you are a settler.
Be unsettled instead.