This week at our staff team meeting we were fortunate to welcome Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray. This was an opportunity for our team to learn more about Orange Shirt Day, the destructive impact that the residential schools system had on Indigenous communities, and the work that Eddy and Kirstin are doing to further awareness and promote healing.
“I want to release what is inside of me. All that fear. All that anger. All that pain. I want all of Canada to know why we are the way we are today.” – Eddy Charlie
National Indigenous Peoples Day occurs each year on June 21st. The Indigenous people of Canada include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Gordon Neighbourhood House is located on on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional homelands of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We encourage you to check out each Nations website to learn more about their unique cultures and strong community activism work.
You can read our statement on the discovery at Kamloops HERE. You can read the statement of our governing body, the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC HERE. At the bottom of this blog post we have shared some information and resources for our Indigenous community members who have been impacted by the residential schools system and re-traumatized by the news cycle.
Keep reading for some suggestions on celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, the names of some Indigenous-owned businesses, and some information on how you can take action and join us in a push for accountability and real change.
Take a look at this great interactive Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) place name map. Users can scroll around and highlight local sites. Most pins on the map have the recorded pronunciation, spelling, and in some spots, photos, stories, articles, archival documents, and videos. This map aims to educate and advocate for the official reclaiming of Indigenous place names in the homelands of Squamish peoples.
This month we are collectively mourning the identification of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at a Kamloops residential school. If you are unfamiliar with the details surrounding this story then you can read more in this Guardian article here.
In the ninety-four Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report numbers seventy-one to seventy-six outline what steps the government needs to take in addressing these missing children and burial sites. The Calls To Action point to the need for a well maintained record of the deaths that occurred at residential schools, the identification of all unmarked burial site locations, families to be informed of the burial site of their loved ones, appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers at grave sites, and reburial in home communities where requested.
These Calls To Action were published in 2015 (six years ago) and it is necessary to implement them now or Indigenous communities will continue to be further traumatized by each slow discovery.
We ask that you consider writing a letter to your local Member of Parliament to demand urgency on these Calls To Action. If you would like to come by Gordon Neighbourhood House we will provide you with a pen, paper, stamped envelope, the address of your local Member of Parliament, and the location of the nearest post box. Check out these Letter Writing Tips and Letter Template.
Orange Shirt Day takes place each year on September 30th. This is a day for honouring residential school survivors and their families, and remembering those who did not make it home. Check out our previous blog post for more information Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters.
The Legacy of Hope Foundation have records of some residential school survivor stories for those who want to learn the truth of what happened at these schools.
If you would like to purchase an orange t-shirt while also supporting Indigenous artists and organisations then check out these spots:
Talking to children about the history and impact of residential schools in Canada is important, but can seem like a daunting task. Check out this Youtube video made by author Monique Gray Smith “Talking to Kids about Residential Schools”. In this video Monique shares tips on both talking to kids about residential schools, but also how to prepare yourself as the adult to have these conversations.
The following Youtube storybook readings can be a helpful resource for parents and caregivers who want to convey these difficult stories to children:
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The IRSSS can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Saa’ust Centre, brought to life by the Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee’s community, is an oasis for families and survivors affected by the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
First Nations Health Authorityprovides culturally safe and trauma-informed cultural, emotional, and mental health services to Indigenous people in BC.
Kuu-Us Crisis Line Society provides crisis services for Indigenous people across BC. Adults and Elders can call 250-723-4050 for support; youth can call 250-723-2040. A toll-free number is available at 1-800-588-8717.