September 30th is now officially Victoria Orange Shirt Day in BC also known as National Day for Truth & Reconciliation. This proclamation was made by the Honorable Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, an uninvited settler on these unsurendered (but occupied nonetheless) lands, with the presentation of a very large, official looking framed proclamation letter… And maybe I’m the only one watching that felt the the irony. On this of all days, that such a plaque, probably says “by the government of British Columbia”, and somewhere acknowledges that we are still a commonwealth and subjects of the king of England.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of recognizing Orange Shirt Day (which I somewhat prefer to “National Day for Truth & Reconciliation), quite the opposite, I want to shine a light on the challenges we all face navigating this rapidly changing world. One that seeks to frame our future together, differently and in a good way. In what was only the second time this day of remembrance was observed, I joined nearly a thousand other members of our community at Centennial Square, all wearing orange to bare witness and listen. I remember the first Orange Shirt Day event at Camosun College in 2015… and the heartbreaking truths I learned there for the first time.
Its been a difficult journey for us all, and although it wasn’t the kind of day to call out to each other and socialize, I’m proud to say that observed many other members of our Union in the crowd. I spent the day with my heart and ears open, trying to help create the space needed for healing. Truth telling and receiving is a gift; it will help us learn to walk together in a good way. That was part of the message that I was able to catch from Elder May Sam as she welcomed us all which was repeated over and over by each speaker.
Each and every speaker of the day, from Emcee Rachelle Dallaire to Elder Tom Sampson, and Hollie Charlie, even Eddie and Kirstin themselves, focused on how this day, these testimonies, learning these truths were the start of a path where we all learn to walk together in a good way. That’s the “meaning” of reconciliation according to those who’ve lost and suffered the most at the hands of Colonialism. Learn to walk together in a good way; nothing more and we owe them nothing less.
I have to share that I was absolutely blown away by Shauntelle Dick-Charleson’s poetry and so very moved by Hollie Charlie’s story of experiencing intergenerational trauma in her home that she didn’t learn was the result of the Residential School System until, she, like many of us, learned of it as an adult at school. Shauntelle’s poetry about yearning for her connections to her ancestors through her mother tongue and Hollie’s horror of learning what had happened to her very own siblings struck a chord of similarity for me and my Japanese-Ainu-Anglo-American roots and our similar cultural histories for the Japanese Canadian and Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War 2. “History” was only yesterday for both these horrors.
Treat the earth and lands upon which we reside as a living entity, deserving of rights and freedoms of it’s own. Understand the truth that intergenerational trauma arose from the cultural genocide visited upon all the indigenous peoples of these lands we now call Canada and help us all find a just future together. They don’t ask for much. Just that we: Believe them. Include them. Listen to them. Acknowledge them. And try to walk forward, together in a good way from now on. Is that really so hard?
I don’t think it is, but it does make me wonder. What does this look like for the CCFA? I’m asking you, our members, how do we “learn to walk forward in a good way” together with our Indigenous colleagues, neighbors, and students? Shouldn’t we have our own Indigenization and Decolonization position? Should we support SENĆOŦEN and lək̓ʷəŋən language workshops for our members? Should we prioritize decolonizing our Union and Collective Agreement, our Union, ourselves?
They closed this 2nd annual Victoria Orange Shirt Day sharing an explanation of the above an image of the “Warrior of Love” which Eddie and Kirsten used to blanket their dignitaries and honoured guests. Also pictures is the new three wheeled bicycle that was donated to Eddie after having his stolen just this past week. These two are warriors for love, is our Union ready to join them?
I hope some of you are willing to share your perspectives by commenting below. You can also read more about the ceremony and their stories here, buy your own Orange Shirt & other products here, and follow them on Instagram, I do!
I was honoured to attend the Victoria Orange Shirt Day ceremony and wish to say Hay’sxw’qa si’em (hy-sh-kwa sea-em) to all who participated and shared their stories! In honour of the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) ancestors, this means, “Thank you, respected or honourable one.” And also, in the words of my Ainu ancestors, thank you. Iyairaykere. (イヤイライケレ。)