It’s baby steps, I know, but Orange Shirt Day is making a difference

Today, September 30, is Orange Shirt Day in Canada. (OK, it’s officially called National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.) This special day of learning and reflection about the enduring devastating impacts of the Residential Schools imposed upon Indigenous children (and their families) was first proclaimed in 2013, and I am cautiously optimistic that it really is making a difference. Oh, we have a long, long way to go, but awareness and understanding increases every year. And as it does, hopefully the Indigenous peoples in Canada are regaining their sense of identity, culture, dignity, and self-worth, of which they were purposefully stripped by the degrading treatment meted out in the Residential Schools.

I’ve written of in some detail of the shameful history of the Residential Schools – and the reason why it’s called Orange Shirt Day – in the last two years; if you don’t know the history you can bring yourself up to speed with either of these past posts:
Today is Orange Shirt Day in Canada. Why?
Orange Shirt Day has a new name

For me there are few things more important to the well-being of our country than to get this right.  To right this historic wrong. And, in the midst of SO MANY upsetting events unfolding in the world – from cruel and unprovoked wars to questionable political decisions that impact millions of vulnerable people to ravaging hurricanes – I’d like to concentrate on some positives.

The positives that I see, hopefully not just through my rose-tinted glasses, are the wide variety of Orange Shirt Day activities being organized and well attended across the country. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has not become yet meaningless symbolic gesture. Each year, there are a few more activities planned by an increasing number of community organizations. More and more people wear orange, and they know understand the significance. And in locations where First Nation communities are in close proximity to towns and cities, the Indigenous leaders and public leaders are working together so that Indigenous voices can be heard. Surely, this is how reconciliation starts and also how it grows. Listening, learning, and working together with mutual respect.

In my small city, we’ve had increasing numbers of events around Orange Shirt Day every year. In fact, Orange Shirt Day has almost turned into Orange Shirt Week.  On Wednesday, Sept 28, a few hundred people gathered to walk across our Walking Bridge across the St. John River (the Wolastoq), calling it a “healing walk” in recognition of the children who suffered and died at the Residential Schools. This event was organized by the Wolastoqey Tribal Council, and local First Nations people were joined by local public officials and many school children and other members of the public from both sides of the river. The event, which included singing, dancing, and talks, was all about joining together in learning. In uniting.



In our city, aside from the Healing Walk across our Walking Bridge, orange crosswalks with white feather have been installed at selected crossings.


The Lieutenant Governor hosted a public gathering for Indigenous leaders and non-Indigenous allies to speak and discuss ways to move forward together.  Our universities are holding commemoration ceremonies with talks from residential school survivors, open to the public. At least two local churches are holding special prayer services on Sept. 30. One of these services is called “Prayers for Truth and Reconciliation”. Orange banners honouring the missing children (Every Child Matters) adorn lamp standards. And similar events are being replicated in towns and cities across Canada, events to raise awareness and build bridges.


With my optimist’s hat on, I applaud the continuing and increasing recognition of Orange Shirt Day and the reasons we have it. I applaud the spotlight that is increasingly put not just on righting the wrongs that have been done, but also the spotlight that is put on Indigenous culture and what it can teach all of us, especially when it comes to respecting Mother Earth.

My hope is that activity and respect for Orange Shirt Day continues to blossom and expand. My hope is that in the process the Indigenous Peoples of Canada are able to fully embrace their languages, history, and culture. And that they can feel empowered to determine their own destiny. Hopefully, I will be welcome as an ally!

Mother Earth is wearing her Orange Shirt this week.OrangeShirtDay-3

Bridge photos by Catherine Morrison/The Daily Gleaner 

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30 Responses to It’s baby steps, I know, but Orange Shirt Day is making a difference

  1. Margaret says:

    It really does seem that orange shirt day is making a difference Jane … action, not just words, makes it much more meaningful and important. It’s all too easy to have all these named days many of which are pointless and unknown.
    As for your last paragraph – yes, yes, yes and yes!
    Such dreadful atrocities need to be remembered, accounted for and as much as possible adjusted for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Margaret. Of course, the heavy lifting required to make the significant actions required to give Indigenous peoples the support and infrastructure needed to move forward with dignity rests in the hands of the govt. Clean water, proper access to health care, early childhood education, safe housing, etc. But having our non-Indigenous population aware, supportive, and vocal can make a huge difference. The heavy lifting needs to be quicker and heavier!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been aware of the atrocities, but I did not know about Orange Shirt Day. Thank you, Jane, for raising awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barryh says:

    Your orange shirt day is most refreshing, Jane. Especially compared to Conservative England, where any attempt to reconcile with similar events in England’s history is castigated as ‘woke’, in some sort of ‘culture war’ – by a governing class that deliberately creates scapegoats and antagonism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Barry. That’s exactly what encourages me, as painfully slow as the full reconciliation progress is. Re your current “governing class”, one can only hope that it’s about to lose the credibility of their own party. 😳😥

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bernie says:

    I feel like each year it grows. I’ve seen orange shirts around the city this week. Today a friend’s young daughter (grade 5 or 6) has gone down to the city center to join a walk. Lots of stuff on today in Saskatoon. As you said in a comment the heavy lifting government stuff is so slow and that needs to change. But we as individuals need to keep learning and supporting. As usual you are so articulate and passionate about this and it shows in your words. Bernie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You and I think alike on this issue (and many others), Bernie. I’m glad to know that there are well-attended events across Saskatchewan, too. There’s so much work to be done to help the healing and moving forward with dignity and self-esteem; the more the govts at both levels (especially the feds, but still) realize the non-Indigenous public is solidly behind the TRC recommendations the better.


  5. So heartening to read! Yes, Mother Nature is wearing her orange shirt. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. heimdalco says:

    It would be so wonderful if Orange Shirt Day could extend to all areas of this planet where minorities, indigenous people & anyone suffering the intolerable are … raising awareness & actually making a difference. It is such a day of hope for Canada. In this divided world perhaps it could make a difference everywhere. “I’d like to teach the world to sing ….”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It was so good to see so much coverage on the news today, and so many people participating. I think this day will grow larger and even more significant to the entire country every year, at least that’s what I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lookoom says:

    It was certainly a sad time and it is good to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, but it is even better to look to the future. The balance is difficult between empathy for the past and not locking the victims and their descendants into the position of victims, there might be a brighter future for all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      That’s certainly what we should be aiming for, a brighter future for all. I think these acts of raising awareness and building understanding of the depth of the ‘victimhood’ is necessary to allow there to be a brighter future for everyone. We’re at least on a path forward.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Roy McCarthy says:

    You certainly continue to be a good ally to the Indigenous community Jane. And often, this is the best that most of us non-activists can do. I’d wear a T-shirt for Women’s Rights or Animal Rights, I re-tweet good and relevant posts on Twitter. Attitudes (let alone actions) often change at glacial rates, but at least it’s another shoulder to the wheel which might assist in time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. fgsjr2015 says:

    Apparently some people — though their souls are as precious as that of every other human being — can actually be [consciously or subconsciously] perceived and treated by an otherwise free, democratic and relatively civilized society as though they’re somehow disposable and, by extension, their suffering is in some way cheapened and less worthy of general societal concern.

    Many indigenous people have learned this the hardest way.

    While obviously no person should ever be considered disposable, one can observe this with indigenous-nation people living with substance abuse/addiction related to lasting, formidable residential or boarding school trauma. In Canada’s atrocious case at least, this includes the many indigenous children buried in unmarked and even officially unrecorded grave sites.

    The whole ordeal was a serious attempt at annihilating native culture.

    For me, a somewhat similar inhuman(e) devaluation is observable in external attitudes, albeit perhaps on a subconscious level, toward the daily civilian lives lost in protractedly devastating war zones and famine-stricken nations. The worth of such life will be measured by its overabundance and/or the protracted conditions under which it suffers. Those people can eventually receive meagre column inches on the back page of the First World’s daily news.

    Liked by 1 person

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