The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30) serves as a reminder to us all to show support for our Indigenous communities and recognize the painful truth about the Residential Schools that once existed here in our country. Yes, absolutely wear your orange shirt but there are more many ways we can reflect as individuals, families, organizations and as a country.  We know we cannot change the past but we also cannot ignore what has happened.

Listen, learn, and acknowledge the truth. Help raise awareness by having discussions amongst our family, friends and colleagues. Support Indigenous communities in education, arts, culinary, and many other avenues because we all have a lot to learn but also so much to appreciate. This isn’t a day to celebrate or to give ourselves a pat on the back to say, “look how far we’ve come” but collectively we can  learn and make sure the heartbreaking history does not repeat itself…ever.

“Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.” ~ The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Here are some ways we can continue to learn and show support…

Read the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. These are the are actionable policy recommendations meant to aid the healing process in two ways: acknowledging the full, horrifying history of the residential schools system, and creating systems to prevent these abuses from ever happening again in the future. We can also recognize the legacy of Indigenous Residential Schools by reflecting and honouring the survivors, families and communities affected by this painful past.

Attend the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre’s Indigenous Legacy Gathering on September 29 and 30 at Nathan Phillips Square. The two day event includes teachings, drumming, dancing, storytelling, and more.

Download the It’s Our Time Education Toolkit— that helps bring together First Nations and non-First Nations people and foster a spirit of cooperation, understanding, and action.

Continued and inspired learning should be mandatory for all Canadians. The University of Alberta’s online collaboration with Coursera brings 12 lessons to your living room in a MOOC (massive online learning course). Historical and critical perspectives highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations are thought-provoking and from first-hand accounts wherever possible. This challenging and heart-wrenching education dives into arts, culture and storytelling. It’s as immersive as it is important.

Orange Shirts are still encouraged to be worn on this day. Ideally purchase your shirts through Indigenous owned organizations and designed and with proceeds supporting the communities. You can learn more about Orange Shirt Day here.

UNYA (Urban Native Youth Association) partnered with MAKE Vancouver to sell Orange Shirts. Designed by Indigenous artist KC Hall, in support and memory of the generations of Residential School Survivors. 100% profits from the sale of this shirt will go directly to the Urban Native Youth Association.

Indigenous Travel Experiences have been steadily growing in interest here in Canada. Seek out travel opportunities that are Indigenous owned and operated. Northern lights, anyone? Check DestinationIndigenous.ca for a comprehensive list of travel experiences for all ages, interests, and budgets.

Support Indigenous artists. Many artisans across the country create beautiful works suitable for every lifestyle and every piece tells a story. Options run from small to large and for every budget. Consider the artists work for your gift giving list from fashion to culinary to home decor.  Check out BuyAuthentic.ca

A Day To Listen leverages the power of radio and media to inspire people across Canada to move reconciliation forward in meaningful ways. From 6 am to 6 pm listen to the voices and stories of Indigenous Peoples around the theme, “Messages of Hope”. Many major media outlets and radio stations will air this programming on September 30 in partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. 

The Royal Conservatory starts the new Koerner Hall concert season by honouring the lives and knowledge of Indigenous people. On September 30 at 8 pm, dancer, storyteller, and activist Sarain Fox guides an evening that includes Juno Award nominee Nimkii; then Rebecca Cuddy sings a song cycle by composer Ian Cusson and poet Marylin Dumont (all Métis) accompanied by the New Orford String Quartet and Philip Chiu; and Tomson Highway unveils his irreverent and freewheeling “Cree Country” band with singer Patricia Cano. Co-curated with Denise Bolduc. The event is sold-out for in person attendance but the livestream is free to watch.

Coming up at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Kent Monkman: Being Legendary (opening October 8).
Curated by Cree artist, this exhibition presents an installation of new original paintings by the artist alongside objects from collections at ROM. Interpreted by Monkman’s shape-shifting, time-travelling, gender-fluid alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the exhibition depicts how deeply Indigenous knowledge is embedded in the lands of Turtle Island. Cree and other Indigenous peoples have carried this knowledge in stories, songs, and artworks since time immemorial. Through the power of storytelling, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle reframes the forced interruptions of the colonial project on Turtle Island and honours leaders in the community who shine a light forward for future generations.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) incredible Indigenous art collection is a big draw for visitors, particularly the works by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis. From Haida master carver Charles Edenshaw, to contemporary Mohawk artist Shelley Niro, the collection spans artistic movements across several centuries. Historic and contemporary works can be found here.

Visit the Woodland Cultural Centre where there are always events and workshops happening throughout the year. Explore the new exhibition, Sense of Belonging: A Place Called Home, that features three contemporary Indigenous lens-based women artists whose artistic practice weaves painting, beadwork, photography to connect the notions of identity, family, community and land.You can also register for a virtual tour of the Mohawk Institute Residential School where guide Lorrie Gallant offers insight into the history of the institution over its 140 year history.

Our many museums and galleries feature works of art by traditional and contemporary Indigenous artists. The Gardiner Museum will be donating all admission revenue on September 30 to Anishnawbe Health Toronto.

Discover theNational Film Board‘s (NFB) online collection of Indigenous-made films including shorts and feature length films.

Order the 2022 Truth and Reconciliation Keepsake coin through The Royal Canadian Mint. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the Royal Canadian Mint have together unveiled a deeply symbolic keepsake that acknowledges the truths behind the residential school experience on First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and their families, and supports the commitment to fostering reconciliation. Honouring the Survivors and children who never returned, the Truth and Reconciliation Keepsake helps educate Canadians about the intergenerational impacts of Residential, Day and Boarding schools. It invites reflection and conversation about the impacts of those schools, the conditions that created them, and how people living in Canada can turn reflection into acts of reconciliation. Learn more about the Indigenous artists involved in this meaningful keepsake here. 

The Northern Birthday Box Project is a great way to do something good. This volunteer-run Facebook group matches interested members of the public to a parent/guardian of a young child (up to teen) who has a birthday coming up. Send a special birthday box filled with essentials for a small celebration (e.g. cake mix, birthday decorations, and a small gift) to a child in a remote Indigenous community. List of suggestions and special requests are provided. This is a nice family project to involve kids too. Find them on Facebook only.

Read to your kids Phyllis’s Orange Shirt written by Phyllis Webstad (young readers): When Phyllis Webstad (nee Jack) turned six, she went to residential school for the first time. On her first day at school, she wore a shiny orange shirt that her granny had bought for her, but when she got to the school, it was taken away from her and never returned. This is the true story of Phyllis and her orange shirt. It is also the story of Orange Shirt Day (an important day of remembrance for Indigenous people and all Canadians).

Here are also a few worthy read for adults as well including Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians that follows five residential school survivors through their years at school and into adulthood. Link to our post here. 

To explain more about Orange Shirt Day here’s a video worth watching…