By: RJ Roggeveen, Program Assistant for Keknu’tmasiek Welo’ltimk and Therapeutic Recreation student at Dalhousie
National Day for Truth & Reconciliation in Canada is held on September 30 along with Orange Shirt Day. This day is designed to allow for education and healing around Indigenous people’s true history of colonization, residential schools, and assimilation practices by the Canadian government. In 2022 this is the second year that Sept. 30 has been marked a federal statutory holiday, but it should not be viewed as a holiday. You see, the term “holiday” is often accompanied by a vision of sleeping in, taking the day off work, relaxing, and starting the weekend early. Sept. 30 is not a holiday.
In fact, in 2015 the Truth & Reconciliation Commission also known as TRC released 94 Calls To Action to address the impacts of residential schools on Indigenous communities. The 80th Call To Action was to have a federally recognized day for commemoration, which is now Sept. 30. On this day of commemoration all people in Canada should use this valuable time to educate themselves on Indigenous history, present issues, the positive work of Indigenous people, and how we can build a future that reconciles the past. Many Indigenous people will use the day for education but also for healing. Healing can take many forms and may be seen in traditional practices, gatherings, storytelling, and independent reflection. On this day it is not the responsibility of Indigenous people to do the educating, this has already been done for years and can be found in the TRC Reports. If an Indigenous person chooses to provide education, be honoured, respectful, and if appropriate provide proper compensation for time and emotional labour.
As you spend the day reading reports, listening to the histories, and talking about the future it is important to take breaks and care for your own mental wellbeing. For many Indigenous people we are aware of the horrors that occurred in residential schools but for many non-Indigenous people the truth behind the schools may be new and hard to hear. It is in this discomfort that the most learning and inspiration for change can happen. Sitting with and working through your emotions will gain you a better understanding around Indigenous people’s experiences, making you a stronger more effective ally. If what you learn is hard to hear I urge you to consider the following:
- How would it have felt to live this?
- How has this impacted future generations?
- What examples of that impact do I see today?
- Where do we go from here, knowing this information?
For Indigenous people the education and truth of our history is known, felt, and present for 365 days a year. Hearing all the stories shared on Sept. 30 can be emotionally overwhelming and empowering for Indigenous people. Both these emotions can co-exist, therefore if you are Indigenous take the time you need to process the day, heal, and seek out support. Attending gathering events can be a great opportunity to connect with your community and find support.
On this day let’s remember to honour the stories we hear, learn from the past, and heal together for the future.
What should you do on September 30?
- Wear Orange
- Read the TRC Reports
- Watch our speaker series: Preparing for a Day of Truth and Reconciliation
- Seek out local events happening
- Respectfully try an Indigenous art form such as beading, painting, basket weaving, etc.
- Look up the positive work being done by Indigenous people
- Be kind, considerate, and compassionate