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WARNING: This story contains disturbing details about residential and boarding schools. If you are feeling triggered, here is a resource list for trauma responses from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the U.S. In Canada, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

Carina Dominguez

Truth and Reconciliation was a phrase coined in Canada and has been adopted in the U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Week runs Sept. 26 through Sept. 30 and this year is the second Canada’s National Day For Truth and Reconciliation, observed on Sept. 30.

Sept. 30 is also National Day of Remembrance, a day that recognizes the U.S Native boarding school system.

The week is an educational opportunity and a social movement that demands recognition of Indigenous survivors. In Canada, it’s a free educational program for school children. “Every Child Matters” is an affirmation Indigenous people are using, along with wearing orange shirts, to raise visibility and unity around the issues.

Systemic cultural genocide has an extensive network throughout Canada and the U.S. In 2007, Canada began to reckon with this history and the intergenerational traumas that stemmed from residential schools. That year, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was signed by representatives of former students, the government of Canada, churches, the assembly of First Nations and Inuit representatives.

Part of the settlement created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was then mandated to collect statements and documents from the residential school era. In 2009, the commission began a multi-year listening session with survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the residential school system. And that archive has lived at The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba since 2015.

The Polar Bear Express has been painted with Every Child Matters. The 1808 locomotive will be used in-between Cochrane and Moosonee including use for the Polar Bear Express passenger train. June Commanda, a Residential School Survivor, is seeing it for the first time. (Courtesy, Ontario Northland)

However, since the American Civilization Fund Act of 1819 was passed by the U.S. Congress, in an attempt to disarm militant Natives and “stimulate the civilization process,” little has been done to address, or reconcile, the boarding school era. Prior to becoming the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, introduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act while she was serving in Congress.

The bill has bipartisan support and is making its way through the House of Representatives. It was approved in June by the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is home to the subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. There’s also a Senate version that was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is in the middle of a campaign called "7 Weeks of Action for 7 Generations" with a goal of lawmakers voting on the legislation during Native American Heritage Month in November.

Both bills would establish a commission, similar to Canada’s, that would be tasked with reviewing institutions. In addition, both the House and Senate versions would mandate the commission to investigate the ongoing impacts of boarding schools and make recommendations to discontinue the ongoing removal of children from their tribal communities by the legal system (state social services departments, foster care agencies and adoption agencies.)

Legislation would complement the efforts already happening at the Interior. The Federal Boarding School Initiative released its initial report earlier this year and outlined the initiative going forward. 

Tim Hortons, one of Canada's most iconic fast food franchises, is offering an orange sprinkled donut as a way to commemorate Truth and Reconciliation Day as well as fundraise for Indigenous charities.

Last year the campaign raised over $1.6 million (CAN). This year the funds will be going to the Orange Shirt Society and the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society. In Saskatchewan half of the proceeds from the orange sprinkle donuts will be given to the James Smith Cree Nation, which suffered a horrific mast killing on Labor Day weekend.

The Canadian Football League will be holding a number of public and in-house activities In the days leading to and following Sept. 30, including seminars for employees, game day ceremonies, in-stadium videos, moments of silence and the wearing of special orange jerseys during team warm-ups. The CFL also plans to feature a virtual on-field image that depicts an Every Child Matters logo during games. On-field officials will wear orange pins recognizing the Every Child Matters movement. And the league office will host an awareness event for staff.


Sept. 29: 

Minnesota, United States. - A Night of Remembrance: Honoring boarding school survivors and those who never made it home

British Columbia, Canada - Orange Shirt Run

Ontario, Canada - Pack Walk: Honouring Orange Shirt Day

Winnipeg, Canada - Bowl Giving Ceremony

Sept. 30:

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Winnipeg, Canada - Meditation for Truth, Reconciliation and Justice

Ontario, Canada – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation / Orange Shirt Day

Ontario, Canada - The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day at Beechwood Cemetery

Ontario, Canada – Orange Shirt Day Sacred Fire

Ontario, Canada – Orange Shirt Day Walk

Quebec, Canada - Orange Shirt Day Kahnawake 2022

Toronto, Canada - Just For Laughs Comedy Festival will host an all Indigenous comedy event on Sept. 30. Hosted by veteran Anishinaabe comedian Don Kelly, the show will feature artists Chad Anderson, Dakota Ray Hebert, Janelle Niles, Nicole Etitiq, and Vance Banzo.

Wisconsin, United States – Orange Shirt Day Program: Gallery Walkthrough and Virtual Presentation

Wisconsin, United States – Orange Shirt Day Vigil

New York, United States - Every Child Matter Remembrance Walk

Washington, United States – Orange Shirt Day Event

Colorado, United States – National Day of Remembrance (Orange Shirt Day)

British Columbia, Canada - National Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day

British Columbia, Canada – Health & Wellness Pow Wow

British Columbia, Canada – Orange Shirt Day

British Columbia, Canada – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Healing Walk

British Columbia, Canada – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

British Columbia, Canada – Indian Horse Movie Screening- National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day

Alberta, Canada – Pancake Breakfast & Memorial Unveiling - Day of Truth & Reconciliation

Alberta, Canada – National Day for Truth & Reconciliation

Click here for more events happening in Canada. 

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