Ktunaxa Nation has released a statement surrounding the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which coincides with Orange Shirt Day, September 30th.
Smokii Sumac, Interim Senior Manager of Education and Employment with Ktunaxa Nation, says that this day can serve as a a national day of remembrance for the victims of the Canadian Indian Residential School System.
“Please remember that we are still healing from the effects of over a century of the residential school system operating across Canada,” Sumac said in the statement. “We appreciate respectful and open-hearted conversations and contributions, and we ask that you honour the experiences of residential school survivors, many still healing today, by keeping their experiences, stories, and hearts at the centre of any action you take. Sometimes it is enough to simply listen and learn.”
Sumac recommends a few key ways to honour this day, including personal commitments.
Sumac says it’s important to wear orange, and learn more about why we wear orange by researching Phyllis Webstad’s story (Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation).
September 30th marks Orange Shirt Day, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and wellbeing. It is also a day of affirmation and commitment to ensure everyone matters.
According to orangeshirtday.org, Phyllis Webstad went to the Mission for one year in 1973/1974 at the age of six. Despite her family not having much money, Webstad’s grandmother was able to purchase a new outfit for school.
“I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt,” Webstad says in her personal story on the Orange Shirt Day website. “It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school.”
When she got to school, they stripped her of her clothes and her orange shirt.
“I never wore it again,” she explained. “I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine. The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was nothing. All of us children were crying and no one cared.”
For more information on orange shirt day and Webstad’s story, visit the website orangshirtday.org.
Sumac also says it’s important to educate yourself, your family and the community.
“Truth and reconciliation is the responsibility of everyone living in Canada,” says Sumac, adding that a good place to start learning is on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website, www.nctr.ca, where you can read the final report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015).
Sumac also recommends reflecting on your own history and your relationship to Ktunaxa and/or Indigenous peoples wherever you live.
Sumac suggests asking yourself the following questions:
“Who am I? What is my family history? How did my family come to live where we live?”
“What is my relationship to Indigenous peoples? What have I learned about Indigenous peoples? Where have I learned it? How am I undoing any stereotypes or misconceptions I may have been taught?”
“What is my responsibility in reconciliation? We all have a responsibility in reconciliation. What are my unique strengths and gifts? How can I use them to contribute to strengthening relations with Indigenous peoples in the territory I live in?”
Ktunaxa Nation Council also released a Statement of Reconciliation that was created by a group of Elders, the Traditional Knowledge and Language Advisory Committee. It is as follows:
n̓ini ku qaɬwiynaɬa
[this is what is in our hearts].
qaqaʔni ma yaqaɬitknawaski
[what they did to us is true].
[say it all/tell the whole story].
mika yaqaɬitknawaski hu qayaqaɬqaȼaɬani
[despite what happened to us we made it through].
hu qaɬwinaɬani kuȼ sukiɬ ʔaqsɬmaknik̓ naɬa
[we want a good life for ourselves].
hawiȼkinin kȼmak̓ kyam ȼ ȼina·kinin
[hold the truth and go forward].
ȼinɬ qaqa [so be it].maʔȼ kuktkinin!
[do not change this statement!]
“There can be no reconciliation without truth,” said Sumac. “Take this day to learn and reflect on the true history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, and go forward committed to doing better for all. Every child matters.”
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