The Orange Shirt Day committee in Kahnawá:ke is a grassroots organization that for the past several years has been organizing the distribution of orange shirts as well as the Orange Shirt Day tobacco burning for our community. Our goal has always been about educating our community on the impacts of residential schools as well as to commemorate our collective history and honour our survivors and those who never made it home.
What is Orange Shirt Day?
In light of the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at various residential schools, our community has gone into a collective period of grief. Many people are struggling to come to terms with the reality that these discoveries bring, while others are dealing with their individual traumas they have endured in relation to the residential school or in the case of many Kahnawa’kehró:non, with their day school experiences.
There is also, as we’ve observed, anger and grief associated with the Catholic Church in our community, both as an institution and with respect to individual experiences with past priests.
In this difficult time, we as a committee are meeting and planning for the upcoming September 30th. In our discussions, we emphasize constantly that we want to encourage healing and continued education to prevent future atrocities.
In the past, when we provided the youth in our community with orange shirts, it was always with those intentions. As we look forward, our continued goal is to support our community with collective healing and our focus this year is truly to honour our survivors. We are focusing on bringing more positivity and healing with our efforts this year, and are mindful that that can look different for each individual.
It is important for us to state that we have not changed our stance in our mission for supporting the community, and that we do not condone any forms of destructive actions toward the church or otherwise.
The legacy of assimilation was and continues to be violent and we believe that our responses as Onkwehón:we is not to fight fire with fire, but rather to move forward with love and support to ensure our collective healing. The intentions of an action rarely consider the impact of the whole. Please consider our elders and generations ahead with how we move forward in this moment.
When is Orange Sirt Day?
Orange Shirt Day | Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. September 30 is an annual day to recognize and raise awareness about the residential school system in Canada, join together in the spirit of reconciliation, and honour the experiences of Indigenous Peoples.