This article makes reference to colonial violence, residential schools, anti-Indigeneity, child death, and suicide.
First, it is important we acknowledge that Archiact exists on the traditional, ancestral, unceded and active territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to live, work, and play on the traditional lands and waters of these Nations, and we recognize that we are uninvited guests on stolen land, benefiting from a history of violent colonization.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was established in 2021 to honour the children who never returned home, Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. The federal statutory holiday was a direct response to Call to Action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Over the course of 150 years, more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were stolen from their families and communities, and forced to attend schools which were often extremely underfunded, overcrowded, and located far from their homes. There, Indigenous children were denied love and respect, and were harshly punished for speaking their ancestral languages. Thousands suffered physical and sexual abuse, and many never returned home.
Residential schools were an act of cultural genocide: a government-funded, systematic attempt to destroy Indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems through forced assimilation, the last of which did not close until 1997. The damages inflicted by residential schools continue to this day, and for most Survivors, talking about their experiences in residential schools means reliving the traumas they experienced.
Public acknowledgment of the traumatic history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of reconciliation, and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation provides space for Canadians to learn about and reflect on the violent legacy of residential schools.
September 30th also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day intended to raise awareness of residential schools' intergenerational impacts, and promote the concept of “Every Child Matters”. Inspired by Phyllis Webstad, the orange shirt symbolizes the stripping away of culture, freedom, and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.
You can read Phyllis’ story as a Survivor and learn more about Orange Shirt Day here.
How we’re commemorating National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
In recognition that Archiact has materially benefitted from working on stolen land, we have made contributions to two organizations doing important work towards reconciliation through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and we encourage you to do the same.
The first is the Na-mi-quai-ni-mak (I remember them) Community Support Fund, which supports small community-based projects that further healing and remembrance related to residential schools in Canada. They understand that Indigenous communities and residential school Survivors can best support healing, memorials, and remembrance in their communities when they lead these ceremonial activities. You can donate here.
The second is the Truth and Reconciliation Week Fund, which goes towards programming for Truth and Reconciliation Week, a free national education program for Canadian students in grades 1–12 created by Indigenous storytellers. You can donate here.
Education is a key part of reconciliation, and in that spirit, we have provided resources for Archiact team members and those in our communities to educate themselves about Indigenous history, (de)colonization and reconciliation. The team is encouraged to take some time to review the resources we have made available, including a recorded presentation of the (De)colonization Lunch & Learn a couple of our teammates hosted for National Indigenous People’s Day back in June.
We encourage you to join us in continuing to learn about the violent colonial history of the land that is now called Canada. Here are a few of the resources we compiled for our team that might also help you get started:
Learn about the history of residential schools from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action
Read the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Enroll in Indigenous Canada, a free Coursera course offered by the University of Alberta that explores the different histories and contemporary perspectives of Indigenous peoples living in Canada
Tune in to Remembering the Children, a live broadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network taking place September 30th at 1 pm ET, or attend local National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events happening in your area
You can find the complete list of resources we compiled on Twitter.
Finally, we would like to reassert our commitment to dismantling anti-Indigeneity in our processes, our products, and our communities. We do not take this commitment lightly, and we are determined to continue working to advance reconciliation based on an understanding of Indigenous rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Every Child Matters.
– The Archiact Team