Sept. 30 is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. It’s a day that honours the lost children and the survivors of residential schools in Canada, as well as their families and communities.
Today is a day to wear the colour orange, which begins with the story of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who wore an orange shirt on her first day at a church-run residential school. It was taken from her by school authorities, and has become a symbol to raise awareness about the cultural genocide that took place through the country’s residential school system.
It’s important for us to be aware of our history and work towards reconciliation. Here are a few resources to help residents of Toronto educate themselves on the culture and history of Indigenous communities on this day of reflection.
Toronto’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival returns this month for its 23rd annual event celebrating and promoting a greater understanding of Indigenous peoples and cultures through film, video, audio, and digital media. The arts festival is the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content, and this year, it will showcase 147 works from artists, representing 16 countries in over 55 Indigenous languages in a hybrid format with in-person and virtual events. Don’t miss the feature film Stellar from Anishinaabe director, writer and producer Darlene Naponse about the love between two people as a meteorite changes the world outside the bar The festival runs Oct. 18-23 in-person and Oct. 24-30 online.
As part of their At Home programming, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Indigenous Voices series features live webinars twice a month to share stories and celebrate Indigenous culture. Designed for elementary and high school students and educators, the program highlights distinct ancestral objects and offers activities to engage viewers. The program is free and ranging in topic from cultural dance to storytelling can be watched anytime online.
The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) is a charitable organization that works to support the wellbeing of Toronto’s Indigenous community. Their beautiful downtown heritage building offers services and programs based on Indigenous traditions and teachings. Refer to their website for a list of programs available for Indigenous and non-Indigenous members (and consider donating to support their cause!). Inside is the Cedar Basket Giftshop, which carries a wide selection of First Nations, Metis and Inuit handcrafted products including original art, jewelry, moccasins, beadwork, carvings and more – shop there to support Indigenous artist and the NCCT.
The Indigenous Celebration program running at the Toronto Public Library is a festival of culture featuring webinars on storytelling and literature from First Nations, Metis and Inuit heritage. Upcoming programs include a workshop learning about the importance of cedar in Indigenous medicines paired with a step-by-step kit to make cedar tea. The library also provides literary education through collections of Indigenous reading, including books that explore important elements of Canadian history, such as the traumas of residential school systems.
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is open to the public for visitors, and the current exhibitions include two Indigenous artists. From Water to Water: A Way Through the Trees is a mural installation from Anishinaabe/Ojibwa artist Bonnie Devine. Elisapee Ishulutaq: My World features oil and pencil artwork from Inuit artist Elisapee Ishulutaq detailing daily life in her home community of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island and will be on Oct. 30. The art gallery also offers an eMuseum that feature thousands of works within First Nations and Métis and Inuit art collections.
The National Film Board of Canada’s collection of Indigenous-made films is available to stream for free on their Indigenous Cinemas page. The platform offers old, new and classic films in a variety of styles including fiction, documentary, animation and educational. Support Indigenous talent by watching the work of top directors or educate yourself through a selection of Indigenous subjects including culture and literature, rights, nature and community.
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) is a registered charity located an hour outside of Toronto that works to create a better path for Indigenous Peoples of Canada by educating, connecting and spreading awareness. For National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is hosting a panel discussion to hear directly from those who were involved in and affected by the Pope’s visit in Treaty Six Territory. The organization is also partnering with local and national media outlets and radio station on Sept. 30 for the second annual “A Day to Listen,” featuring the voices and stories of Indigenous people from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Located in Brantford, ON on the site of a former residential school, taking a day trip to the Woodland Centre is a great opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture through interactive museum exhibits both indoors as well as outdoors on the five-acre grounds. The centre is offering a series of virtual events for students on Orange Shirt Day as well.