Orange Shirt Day is a day in which people wear orange shirts to commemorate Indigenous children sent to residential schools. The event takes place on Thursday, September 30th. While Orange Shirt Day is important every year, this summer, the world discovered mass graves under residential schools where thousands of children were murdered. With all that being said, it is important to wear your shirt and educate yourself now more than ever on the genocide of indigenous peoples and their culture.
The unceded land Montreal is on is the Indigenous lands of the Kanien’kehá: ka/Mohawk Nation, with the city of Montreal’s name being Tiohti: áke in Kanien’kéha.
As of now, more than 1,300 unmarked graves of Indigenous children have been found at former residential schools in Western Canada. Many of us like to think that this part of our dark history is just that, history. Yet, we must recognize that the generational trauma that Indigenous communities are going through is present, and they are not being supported.
The last residential school to close was located in Saskatchewan and closed its doors in 1996, only twenty-five years ago. While public apologies are not enough, acknowledgment is a step; former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology, and so did Justin Trudeau. Yet, they mean almost next to nothing when Indigenous people do not have access to clean water, and Indigenous women are being killed without any investigation taking place. However, the Roman Catholic church has yet to issue a formal apology despite their overhearing presence in the harm inflicted on these young children.
The Canadian government ran residential schools. The Catholic church oversaw them. Not only were these children stolen from their parents, but they were stripped of their culture and their language in an attempt to have them conform to dominantly White and Catholic society. An estimated one hundred fifty thousand students attended residential schools, and the number of graves found is just the ones we found. The number of children dead is expected to be in the tens of thousands. Many were killed at the school for refusing to give up their culture or dying to escape. Those who survived were subject to assault, sexual assault, and rape.
This Orange Shirt Day and everyone that will pass, it’s important to do what you can to support Indigenous communities. Whether that be through educating yourself, buying from small Indigenous communities, signing petitions, and so much more. Being complacent is no longer an option; we must be better.
By Isabella Del Grosso