September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
UBC Faculty of Education is situated within the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and Syilx (Okanagan) peoples. These lands and places are steeped in histories and knowledges of the original peoples of these territories.
Orange Shirt Day, also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, signals us to learn and reflect upon the Indian residential school system and the impact it continues to have on Indigenous communities.
Orange Shirt Day was elevated to a statutory day of observance in 2021, in light of the revelations of thousands of unmarked graves near former residential school sites across the country.
Commemorate Orange Shirt Day by coming together in a spirit of reconciliation and hope—because every child matters.
The inspiration for Orange Shirt Day came from residential school Survivor, Phyllis Jack Webstad, who shared her story at a residential school commemoration project and reunion event in 2013. On Phyllis’s first day of residential schooling, the six-year-old was stripped of her clothes, including the new orange shirt her grandmother had bought her. The shirt was never returned. Today, the orange shirt symbolizes how the residential school system took away the Indigenous identities of its students.
The date of September 30 was chosen as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation because it was the time of year when Indigenous children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools.
How can we honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
- Personal reflection
- Education and awareness activities
- Participating in Orange Shirt Day events within your community
- Visiting the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC
The NCTR educates Canadians on the profound injustices inflicted on First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation by the forced removal of children to attend residential schools and the widespread abuse suffered in those schools.
The NCTR preserves the record of these human rights abuses and promotes continued research and learning on the legacy of residential schools. Their goal is to honour Survivors and to foster reconciliation and healing on the foundation of truth-telling.
The NCTR was gifted the spirit name bezhig miigwan, which, in Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Anishinaabe people, means “one feather.” The name reminds us that every Survivor needs the same respect and attention that an eagle feather deserves. The name also teaches us that we are vital to the work of reconciliation.
To learn more, visit NCTR’s website.
- Highlighted Reports
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Reports
- Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, 2015: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada
- What We Have Learned, 2015: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation
- The Survivors Speak, 2015: A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, 2015: In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published 94 calls to action.
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports
- Modern Reports
- Government Reports
- Aboriginal Healing Foundation Reports
Read the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
The IRSHDC is a leading institution for culturally informed, reciprocal, community-led research, education and dialogues in partnership with Indigenous communities, Survivors and UBC. As a Survivor-centred, trauma-informed space, the IRSHDC works in service to Indigenous communities and peoples of Canada.
The IRSHDC works with partners across various disciplines at UBC and beyond to facilitate dialogues and access to records and information that support engaging the legacies of the residential school system and the ongoing impacts of colonialism in Canada. By supporting Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and working in partnership with partners and communities, the IRSHDC supports teaching and learning at UBC and UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan.
To learn more, visit IRSHDC’s website.
Indigenous teacher candidates in rural communities of British Columbia created an open educational resource, the Grease Trail Digital Storytelling project, to enhance the preservation and accessibility of Indigenous histories, stories, and memories embedded in local landscapes.
Through digital teaching and learning contexts, they explored this land-based experiential learning opportunity, engaged in traditional Indigenous storytelling practices, and situated the projected within the principles of:
- Respect: Understand local Indigenous knowledges to expand Indigenous-focused digital curricular
- Relevance: Develop digital storytelling as an instructional tool to enhance learning
- Responsibility: Provide land-based learning opportunities to build capacity for diversity and inclusion in teaching and learning contexts
- Reciprocity: Create open Indigenous digital storytelling educational resources for schools and Indigenous communities
These projects focus on one or more of the following goals:
- Supporting pre-and in-service teachers to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action in their professional practice as emerging and established educators
- Redressing the colonial legacy of schooling for Indigenous learners, families, and communities by attending to anti-Indigenous racism, anti-oppressive practices, decolonization and Indigenization
- Addressing the relationship of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s commitments, which are both aimed at improving the rights and wellbeing of Indigenous people through teaching and learning
Funding to support these projects was provided by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training.
View the Indigenous Curriculum Enhancement Project Gallery.
The display will include picture books, novels and graphic novels that address the history of residential schools in Canada, as well as teacher resources to support Truth and Reconciliation in K-12 schools.
The Education Library has a number of materials available year round to support teaching and learning about Residential School History and Truth and Reconciliation, many of which can be found on their booklists: blogs.ubc.ca/educationlibrarybooklists/indigenous-literature-and-education
The march will follow a marked pathway along Main Mall to the Reconciliation Pole where an Elder and Survivor will address attendees.
The pathway will be lined with informative placards and volunteers will speak about the history of residential schools.
The march will conclude at the Engineering cairn, where Elders and children will be invited to add handprints or messages to the painted cairn.
All members of the UBC community are welcome.
For more information, visit the event page.
The Faculty of Education is honoured to host two groundbreaking exhibits on the residential school system. The exhibits are presented in partnership with UBC Library and on display at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. The Faculty acknowledges the generosity of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, creator of the exhibits.
For more information on the exhibits, visit the event page.
The Legacy Of Hope Foundation is a national Indigenous charitable organization with the mandate to educate and create awareness and understanding about the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts, such as the removal of generations of Indigenous children from their families, including the Sixties Scoop, and the post-traumatic stress disorders that many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis continue to experience. The Foundation also works to address racism, foster empathy and understanding, and inspire action to improve the situation of Indigenous peoples today.
12:00 – 3:00 pm
All teacher candidates and Faculty of Education faculty and staff are invited to participate in creating orange shirts to commemorate each of the Indigenous children who lost their lives at Indian Residential Schools. The collected contributions will be installed in Scarfe as an ongoing act of remembrance and reconciling.
Join us in a knitting or crocheting workshop, offered by Dr. Lorrie Miller, Dr. Kerry Renwick, Dr. Shannon Leddy and Heather Clark. New and seasoned knitters and crochet enthusiasts are all welcome. Patterns, directions and materials will be available. Donations can be dropped off in the Teacher Education Office.
For more information, visit the event page.
Picking up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket | Film screening followed by a conversation with Carey Newman and his sisters Marion and Ellen
September 21, 2021
4:30 – 7:00 pm PDT
virtual event presented via zoom
Inspired to know more about his father’s time at residential school, Kwagiulth master carver and artist Carey Newman created the Witness Blanket – a wall-sized monument that commemorates the experiences of residential Survivors and their families, as well as the children who didn’t return home. The Witness Blanket is constructed from hundreds of everyday items collected from residential schools, churches, government buildings and cultural structures across Canada. Each object has a story to tell, each Survivor has something to say. Narrated by the artist, this 90-minute film weaves together those stories with Carey’s personal journey, examining how art can open our hearts to the pain of truth and the beauty of resiliency.
This event will be delivered virtually (via zoom). It will include a Musqueam welcome and opening remarks by Chief Dr. Robert Joseph and IRSHDC Academic Director Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe). A moderated conversation with Carey and his sisters Ellen and Marion will follow the film, and the event will conclude with a song by Syilx Okanagan singer Amber Cardenas.
Returning Home and Pathways to Reconciliation | Film screening and Q&A with Phyllis Webstad
September 27, 2021
11:00 am – 1:00pm PDT
live, in-person event at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
“Returning Home” weaves the story of two parallel narratives. The first is the story of Phyllis Webstad, a Survivor of the former St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in Williams Lake and originator of Orange Shirt Day. The second is the story of the steady decline of wild pacific salmon. This 45-minute film is the first feature length documentary produced by Canadian Geographic. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Sean Stiller, it is set to tour the film festival circuit this fall, beginning with the Vancouver Film Festival on October 3, 2021.
We are pleased to be able to showcase the film in advance at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. This event will include a Musqueam welcome and opening remarks by Dr. Jo-ann Archibald Q’um Q’um Xiiem and IRSHDC Academic Director Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond-Lafond (Aki-Kwe). A post-screening conversation and Q&A with Phyllis, moderated by Dr. Turpel-Lafond, will follow the film.
Both events are presented in partnership with the First Nations House of Learning, UBC Learning Circle, and the Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health. The event on September 21st is also presented in partnership with UBC Okanagan’s Indigenous Programs and Services office.
Please note that registration is required for both events and proof of vaccination will be required for all guests attending the event taking place at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.
For more information, visit the event and registration page or email email@example.com.
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Join the Teacher Education Office and the Office of Indigenous Education in the Neville Scarfe foyer to view National Day of Truth and Reconciliation resources.
Pick up an Orange Shirt Day button and donate to the Indian Residential Schools Survivor Society and the Orange Shirt Society.
Engage with Indigenous knowledge keepers, educational leaders, and resources to enhance your understanding and knowledge of practices that advance reconciliation in the places where you live, learn, and work.
This massive open online course (MOOC) will help you envision how Indigenous histories, perspectives, worldviews, and approaches to learning can be made part of the work we do in classrooms, organizations, communities, and our everyday experiences in ways that are thoughtful and respectful. In this course, reconciliation emphasizes changing institutional structures, practices, and policies, as well as personal and professional ideologies to create environments that are committed to strengthening our relationships with Indigenous peoples.
While some graves and cemeteries associated with the residential schools are known and are still maintained, others are now unknown or incompletely documented in the literature and may have passed from local memory.
From 1892 to 1908, the death rate from all causes of Indigenous children in residential schools is estimated at 8,000 deaths per 100,000. By comparison, the 1901 Canadian census showed the death rate from all causes for those between five and fourteen years of age is an equivalent of 430 per 100,000.
In the 1870s, residential schools were intended to provide basic English literacy, eliminate Indigenous languages, unilaterally acculturate children to non-Indigenous social and religious values, and provide vocational skills calculated to facilitate assimilation.
In 1920, an Indian Act amendment gave the Department of Indian Affairs the authority to send any school-aged First Nations child to a day school or a residential school. In many isolated communities with insufficient numbers to justify a day school, there was no alternative to enrollment in a residential school.
While most residential schools were established in remote or rural locations, some were established in major centres and became enclosed by urban development. This includes St. Paul’s IRS (1899-1959), established adjacent to the Squamish First Nation (North Vancouver). The school was demolished in 1959 and the land was redeveloped as St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, with the nearby cemetery surrounded by residential development.
The Department of Indian Affairs was universally reluctant to send deceased students home for burial. In her memoirs, Eleanor Brass recalled how the body of a boy, who hung himself at the File Hills IRS (Saskatchewan) in the early twentieth century, was buried on the Peepeekisis Reserve even though his parents lived on the Carlyle Reserve.
In 1938, a mother requested that the body of her son, who was dying of tubercular meningitis at the Spanish IRS, be sent to her in Cornwall, Ontario, for burial upon his death. The response from Indian Affairs to the school was: “I have to point out that it is not the practice of the Department to send bodies of Indians by rail excepting under very exceptional circumstances. Bodies so shipped have to be properly prepared by the undertakers for transshipments under the laws of the province, and the expense of a long journey such as this would be, would entail an expenditure which the Department does not feel warranted in authorizing.”
In some cases, former Indian Residential Schools lie isolated from any surrounding community, and the available information suggests that they lie abandoned and largely overlooked.
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1.866.925.4419
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for former residential school students.
This website contains subject matter that may be disturbing to some visitors, especially to Survivors of the residential school system. Please call the crisis line if you or someone you know is triggered while reading the content of this website, or experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.