The Syilx Okanagan Nation is calling on all Canadians to remember what September 30, 2021, means for Indigenous Peoples — beyond reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day was spearheaded by Indian Residential School Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who shared her story widely to bring awareness to the harm and trauma created by colonialism and Indian Residential Schools on Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.
In light of the official findings of unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools across Canada over 2021, alongside the recognition of Orange Shirt Day, also called the National Truth and Reconciliation Day, as a statutory holiday on September 30, the demand for support and Orange Shirts has spiked. As part of actions leading up to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Syilx Okanagan Nation is calling on all non-Indigenous retailers to immediately stop the sale of “Every Child Matters” orange shirts if they do not provide proceeds back to Indian Residential School survivors and their families. The Syilx Indian Residential School Committee has stated that “by not giving profits to survivors, vendors are profiteering off the harm and trauma suffered by those that attended Indian Residential Schools.” This is also not a day to expect Indigenous peoples to educate non-Indigenous people on these experiences — but rather a day where we ask Canadians to right the wrongs of the injustice towards Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. It calls upon all of us to take responsibility and proper action to move forward in a way that does not continue to exploit the victims and their families. A National Day of Truth and Reconciliation may rather be an opportunity to raise awareness and address social injustices, harm and inter-generational trauma suffered by Indigenous peoples.
The Syilx Okanagan Nation remain committed to standing united and demand justice for the thousands of children who never returned from Indian Residential Schools. As part of this commitment, we support the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee in their ongoing efforts to collectively support each other through bringing these traumas to light.
Orange Shirt Day originated from the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. The event took place to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
The Syilx Indian Residential School (SIRS) Committee is a group of highly dedicated, intergenerational Syilx Indian Residential School survivors. The SIRS Committee is invaluable in providing direction to the Nation on numerous projects regarding the Indian Residential Schools. This Committee, represented by the seven member communities, has expressed that they feel a sense of belonging from participating on this Committee. They have a true ownership role in ensuring projects move forward, taking into account their knowledge and experience. For more information on the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit: www.syilx.org/wellness/indian-residential-school/