National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
By: Gail Gallagher
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day has occurred annually on September 30th for the past three years. This day honors Indigenous children who never returned home and the Survivors of residential schools, including their families and communities.
This day culminates with Orange Shirt Day, also on September 30th. The story of Phyllis Webstad is the inspiration behind "Orange Shirt Day" when her favorite orange shirt was taken from her on her first day at residential school when she was six years old.
More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children from across the country were forced to attend Indian Residential Schools, which were located far from their homes, and many children never returned home. Many Indigenous students also attended day schools, where they returned home after their school day ended. There was still abuse at those day schools, which included emotional, physical, and often sexual abuse.
The ongoing impacts of residential schools are felt in many Indigenous communities and families, including my own family. This day is personal to me, as the daughter of an Indian Day School survivor. My maternal grandparents went to Indian residential schools and my Cree First Nation mother went to an Indian Day school in northeastern Alberta.
The intergenerational trauma passed down from one generation to the next still affects my family. I see this reflected in other families to this day. Many may not be aware but there is a link between intergenerational trauma in Indigenous families and homelessness. Indigenous people are over-represented in the homeless population. Indigenous people face many challenges and barriers, however, we also have a lot of strength and resilience.
To me reconciliation means healing, healing myself, my family, and my community. I would like to call on non-Indigenous people to take action. Please reflect, honor, and learn more about the history of Indian residential schools in Canada.
Resources in case you need support:
Former residential school students can call 1-866-925-4419
The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for counseling and crisis intervention.