People in Chilliwack and across Canada will be donning orange shirts on Sept. 30 in recognition of residential school survivors.
“The first step to reconciliation is healing the history and understanding that it’s a shared history. It’s not just an Indigenous history,” said Patti Victor of Cheam First Nation, also Trinity Western’s first University Siya:m (a Sto:lo word describing a leader recognized for wisdom, integrity, and knowledge).
Across Canada, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, people will wear orange shirts to remember and honour the survivors of the nation’s residential schools system.
Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 after former student, Phyllis Webstad, told her story of having her orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of residential school in 1973 when she was six years old.
“Reconciliation begins by hearing, understanding and acknowledging the history and also acknowledging the impact that it continues to have throughout the generations,” Victor said.
In addition to being the University Siya:m, Victor is also TWU’s director of the Institute of Indigenous Issues and Perspectives and chair of the Indigenous Partnership Council. This semester, she is teaching courses on Indigenous worldview, culture, history, and the journey of compassion in reconciliation.
As well, she is leading several initiatives to foster greater understanding of Indigenous history and culture on campus. One of such initiatives is commemorating Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30.
Partnership is at the core of what Victor hopes to see among Canadians. She references an Indigenous word, Lets’emo:t, which is a commitment to walk together with a good heart, a good mind and good intentions.
“My biggest desire is that we would walk together as partners. A partnership where you celebrate each other’s successes, and you walk in their journey of sorrow.”