How will you mark this year’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation? The country has set routines for Remembrance Day, but given how new the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is, many of us simply aren’t sure how to acknowledge it properly. Learning anything about Indigenous history or culture is a start.
This year, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (SKG) has a full day planned on: the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples, learning about the impact of the residential school systems, and reflecting on the path forward.
The day is also a celebration of SKG’s grand opening, welcoming its first post-secondary students studying toward Anishinaabe culture and language degrees, in the new waterfront location. They welcome all students interested in learning about the Anishinaabe from across the country and around the world.
Once Orange Shirt Day, Sept. 30 honoured Phyllis Webstad, who had her brightly coloured shirt taken away on the first day of residential school. Now, Sept. 30 strives to make more than a hashtag out of #everychildmatters.
It is our duty to know the legacy of the residential school system, its cultural genocide, lasting intergenerational trauma, and systemic issues. We need to continue to be completely aggrieved that even one, let alone hundreds or thousands of children died while under the “care” of residential schools across the country. No school should have ever had a graveyard attached to it, let alone a mass grave.
In 2022, as mass graves were being discovered, it was high time for the government to declare Sept. 30 a “holiday,” as it was one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Sadly, so many more of the calls to action should have been implemented by now, and more of us should know about them.
Last year, I recognized the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation by reading the TRC calls to action, by sharing a link on social media and by suggesting other people read them as well. This year, I’m looking forward to learning through attending the in-person event at SKG.
SKG sits on the waterfront land across from Algoma University, which was once a residential school, called Shingwauk Indian Residential School. Cancel culture might suggest that the original building be demolished, but the Children of Shingwauk alumni, the Shingwauk Education Trust, and SKG, all believe in the importance of the site standing sentinel to the past, transformed positively towards enacting Chief Shingwauk’s vision.
Residential schools were a toxically implemented version of Chief Shingwauk’s vision for cross-cultural education. His vision was expressed as a two wampum belt, where two canoes travelled parallel to each other, separated by their independence. One boat was the Indigenous peoples and the other boat was the colonizers. The Chief recognized that both could learn from each other, paddling their own canoes, living in harmony. Originally housed at Algoma University, once SKG receives university accreditation, Chief Shingwauk’s vision will be truly realized from the Anishinaabe perspective.
I see poetic symmetry in the fact that Algoma University is on one side of the Queen Street and SKG is on the other side, like a visual representation of the wampum belt, where both can learn from each other, and once SKG receives its accreditation, both universities will paddle their own destinies, in harmony.
The address of the facility, which is 1491 Queen St., is also significant, as it was the last year that Indigenous peoples thrived in the Americas.
Back to Sept. 30, 2022, according to a media advisory from SKG, the day will begin with a Sunrise and Water Ceremony. After breakfast, there will be special guest speakers, singers and dancers, panel discussions, workshops, and a culturally inspired lunch. There will also be tours of the SKG building, including the National Chiefs’ Library, the Medicine Garden, and the Teaching Lodge.
The site alone is worth a visit, and any or all of the itinerary they’re offering provides a rich environment for learning and marking the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Hosted in partnership with Indigenous Tourism Ontario’s Weekend for Truth and Reconciliation, the evening will conclude with a Truth and Reconciliation Drone Show at Silver Creek Golf Course at 9 p.m. illuminating the night sky with over 200 drones.
A link to register for events, meals, and specific workshops is available online at: https://indigenoustourismontario.ca/events/weekend-for-truth-and-reconciliation/
No matter how you spend Sept. 30, I hope you will share what you learn with me, and others, so that we can all paddle toward education, reconciliation, independence, and harmony.