3 Ways to be an Ally to Indigenous Peoples
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s
Call to Action #80
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential school remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”.
September 30th is a day to honour the Indigenous children that were stolen from their families and forced into the Indian residential school system as a part of Canada’s attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples - “to kill the Indian inside the man” and "get rid of the Indian problem" - in order to better control and own the land they stole. This is a day to educate all non-Indigenous Canadians about the struggles that Indigenous communities faced and continue to face and the resulting, ongoing intergenerational violence, trauma, and impacts this colonial history has on Indigenous peoples today. This is a day to center and uplift Indigenous voices, recognize the resilience of Indigenous peoples, and call for justice from the government of Canada as well as the Church.
Orange Shirt Day originated in May 2013, from Phyllis Webstad of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. Only 6 years old, she was stolen from her home and forced into St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. The orange shirt her Grandmother gave her for her first day of school was stolen from her that day, along with all her belongings from home, and never seen again. As a survivor, the colour orange is a memory that always reminds her of the atrocities she and other Indigenous children went through - a reminder of all the children who never came back home. Together with Chief Fred Robbins, this day brings together Indigenous communities and, year after year, opens the door to meaningful conversation and systematic change.
In the wake of the inhumane and cruel treatment generations of Indigenous children felt - deemed worthless in the eyes of the government and the church - the Every Child Matters movement sends the message that all Indigenous children matter. That all Indigenous children buried in mass, unmarked graves deserve to be returned to their homeland. That all Indigenous children today are worthy of love and greatness and respect. That all are deserving of justice and equity. That it is imperative for all non-Indigenous people living on land now called Canada, who benefit from its colonial past of genocide and erasure, to take responsibility, demand accountability, and continue to fight for Indigenous Rights today and everyday.
Today, performative activism is useless - wearing an orange shirt solely to participate in the visual aspect of the statutory holiday. Today, wearing orange is meaningless unless we continue to practice allyship and educate ourselves about the true history of Canada, the true history of residential schools, and the deeply rooted consequences that remain. Today is not the day to ask Indigenous peoples to educate you. It is not their job to teach you, to explain, or discuss their traumas while also living through them. For many Indigenous peoples, today is a day for reflection, mourning, or spiritual and cultural reconnection.
The experiences you may be hearing or learning about for the first time today are not from a distant past. These are not old tales from a by-gone era, barely-remembered. The last Residential School in Canada closed in 1996. These are current traumas, present-day wounds that are reopened and magnified every day - that are still healing. Today, every single Indigenous person you know is either a survivor of Residential Schools, the child of a survivor, or the grandchild of a survivor - or all three. Today is the day to recognize that there are not enough publicly funded resources to meet all the mental and emotional health needs caused by the systematic colonialism of these institutions. Supporting and donating to national and grassroots efforts to build community is paramount to the healing and thriving of Indigenous Peoples - this includes resources to help heal substance dependency: a direct result of Canada’s colonial past and present.
This year, upon National Truth and Reconciliation day becoming federally recognized and coinciding with Orange Shirt Day, many institutions mandated the wearing of orange and parents scrambled to get their hands on a shirt - many without a deep understanding of the history of the IRS and ongoing colonialism in this country. For months, major corporations and mega businesses (like Wal Mart and Hudson Bay) stockpiled and hoarded orange shirts leading up to today - leaving Indigenous designers and places like Native Arts Society completely unable to source them. Corporations and settler business in our colonial-capitalist society have again stolen the opportunity for funds to go directly back to Indigenous designers, survivors, and communities.
Today, on September 30th, Orange Shirt Day, and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, don’t buy from a corporation.
Engage in conversation with friends and family. A chat, a book or film club, or enrolling in courses together are all ways you and your loved ones can learn together. Participating in Indigenous-led events & activism sends the message that accountability is still required.
One of the simplest things you can do is seek new learning and experiences. Many indigenous content creators provide free education and resources on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Read all 94 TRC Calls to Action and 231 MMIWG Calls for Justice. Read about survivors’ stories.
Donate your time and/or money directly to individuals or groups who can benefit from it - The “One Day’s Pay Campaign” donates your pay from a single day directly to an indigenous-led project, movement, organization, or nation.
As of June 30, 2021, 14 calls to action have been completed (including only one of the six involving missing children and burials: number 72 — the student memorial register), 23 are in progress with projects underway, 37 are in progress with projects proposed, and 20 have yet to be started, according to the British Columbia Treaty Commission.
Note that some of these may include graphic imagery and topics such as suicide, substance abuse, residential schools, and physical/sexual abuse.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Kayak to Klemtu
Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up
Atarnarjuat: the Fast Runner
Tick or Treaty
We Were Children
Rocks at Whiskey Trench
Seven fallen feathers
Moon of the crusted snow
The inconvenient Indian
The trickster series
This place: 150 years retold
21 things you may not know about the Indian act
We are water protectors
Policing indigenous movements
To be a water protector
A short history of the blockade
Walking the clouds
From the Ashes
Indigenous Canada Course - U of Alberta
Land Back/Cash Back - Yellowhead Institute
Red Rising Magazine
MMIWG2S+ final report
Orange shirt day website
Indigenous youth voices - roadmap for TRC66
4Rs framework for cross-cultural dialogue