Orange Shirt Day on September 30 is a day to honour the children who went to residential schools and to learn about the legacy of the residential school system. Orange Shirt Day is based on the story of Phyllis Webstad, who in 1973, entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School at the age of six. She was stripped of the orange shirt she was wearing and forced to wear the institutional uniform.
This year, September 30 has also been recognized by the federal government as the annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. September 30 was chosen to mark the date when trucks and buses would arrive in communities to take children to residential schools. These schools operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996.
To mark this day, in collaboration with our colleagues in the Centre for Indigenous Studies and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the Faculty of Arts & Science has organized several events and compiled a list of resources across the University to encourage individual and collective learning, reflection and action with respect to the legacy of the residential school system.
- Hart House is hosting an online event, organized by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, that features a keynote address from Lee Maracle. Maracle is an instructor at the University of Toronto in Indigenous Studies and First Nation’s house. She is the author of a number of critically acclaimed and award-winning works including novels, Ravensong, Bobbi Lee, Sundogs, short story collection, Sojourner’s Truth, poetry collection, Bentbox, and non-fiction work I Am Woman.
- Innis College will host a free, live broadcast of the film Beans by filmmaker Tracey Deer. Winner of the 2021 Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture and inspired by true events, Beans is about a Mohawk girl on the cusp of adolescence who must grow up fast and become her own kind of warrior during the armed stand-off known as the 1990 Oka Crisis. Following the film, Innis will host an online discussion with Deer.
- U of T Mississauga is hosting its 2021 Snider Lecture featuring Robin Wall Kimmerer, as she draws on Indigenous and scientific wisdom to offer lessons on healing our relationships with the natural world. Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of several works, including Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.
October and November
The Centre for Indigenous Studies has created a curated reading list related to residential schools, including online resources and works of both fiction and non-fiction. The list includes articles, books and novels such as The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada by Roland David Chrisjohn, and Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. Most of the books and novels are available at either Robarts Library or at the U of T Bookstore.
Arts & Science has also compiled several ways to support local Indigenous communities and organizations, such as the Woodland Cultural Centre – Save the Evidence Campaign which seeks to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource.
The Indigenous Centre at U of T Mississauga has also created an Orange Shirt Day Resources webpage that includes websites, videos and films, podcasts as well as resources and activities that promote learning about residential schools and opportunities to become involved in Truth and Reconciliation organizations and efforts.
Visit Arts & Science’s Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation webpage for a full list of events and resources.