Fanshawe honours National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

A photo of college staff wearing orange shirts at a barbeque CREDIT: MAURICIO PRADO
On Sept. 29, Fanshawe College's Institute of Indigenous Learning recognized Truth and Reconciliation with a community lunch between A and E buildings from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the courtyard.

On Sept. 29, Fanshawe College’s Institute of Indigenous Learning recognized Truth and Reconciliation with a community lunch between A and E buildings from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the courtyard.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, recognized on Sept. 30 officially, honours the children who never returned home as well as the survivors of Canada’s residential schools. People are encouraged to wear orange as part of Orange Shirt Day. This is intended to raise awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of residential schools, and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters.”

“Nothing is better than celebrating community through laughter and food in the spirit of Nish culture,” said assistant manager and organizer Natalie Fletcher.

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She said that in the last few years, they have had, “very emotionally heavy and draining events” given the circumstances of the historical background. She added that this event was, “more light in nature.”

“This year, we just really wanted to have a different approach and kind of more of a celebration of our people and survivors,” Fletcher said. “It is just to give back to our students and make them feel a little bit better on this day, as well as give respect to those we have lost at the residential school system.”

Fletcher said the Institute of Indigenous Learning at Fanshawe purchased tickets to send students to the Indigenous Music and Artisan Festival at the Western Fair complex on Sept. 30.

“The proceeds from the sale of these tickets will go toward helping the locals in Chippewas of the Thames save the last standing barn from the Mount Elgin Residential school, which will be converted into a museum,” Fletcher said.

Indigenous Recruitment and Community Relations Advisor Daniel Kennedy said it was challenging to discuss the topic in previous years, often leaving them sad and emotionally tired by the end of Orange Shirt Day.

“This year, we decided we do not want to be sad, we just want to celebrate who we are as Indigenous people and what better way to celebrate than with food,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy stated that the community lunch represents and celebrates Indigenous people’s resilience and honours what the day is about.

“We are going to honour everyone that came before us and honour what they went through by coming together as a community, sharing laughter and food, and just being together,” Kennedy said. “We hope to impact and encourage people to learn who we are as indigenous people in Canada and understand that we have a place here.”

Kennedy said that there has never been a day in which they, as Indigenous people, do not remember what their ancestors had to go through. He added that knowing and accepting history can help prevent similar “horrifying and scary events” from happening in schools.

“We had a lot of our ancestors that went to residential school. It was not an outstanding experience at all. Some of them did not come home, and it was something that changed our culture, our language and the way that we identify,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said they decided to do it outdoors to try something different this year.

“We love being outside grounds us,” Fletcher said. “Many things we discuss today are sad, and we do not want to be sad. What better way to avoid being sad than enjoying a beautiful sunny day walking on Mother Earth with our bellies full.”