Three days of programming for truth and reconciliation

- Barbara Todd Hager

An orange flag with a heart made out of rainbow coloured children's' hand-prints hangs from a horizontal pole. The graphic was designed by Carey Newman for Orange Shirt Day.
Carey Newman's design for UVic's 2021 Orange Shirt Day t-shirts. Credit: UVic Photo Services.

The recent discovery of hundreds of unreported graves at former residential schools has made this year’s Orange Shirt Day activities at UVic even more meaningful and significant. Canadians of all cultures and backgrounds have been shaken by the growing evidence of abuse, neglect and deaths of Indigenous children at the 139 government and church-run schools across the country that operated between 1880 and 1996.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation & Orange Shirt Day

The federal government has designated September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The new statutory holiday coincides with the grassroots movement that started in 2013 after Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, shared her story of having her orange shirt taken away on her first day at residential school. With UVic observing the stat holiday, this year’s Orange Shirt Day programming will take place from September 27-29. UVic students, faculty and staff will have an opportunity to honour residential school survivors, learn about the history of residential schools through film and panel discussions, and hear how UVic is incorporating Indigenous education into its curriculum and campus life.

This year, UVic visual artist Carey Newman (Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish), the designer of UVic’s Orange Shirt Day t-shirt, created a new design to honour the missing children after the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc announced finding 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Although it took me a few days to process the grief and weight of that moment, something that became very clear was that the graves of these Indigenous children were forcing Canadians to reckon with the humble exceptionalism that has anchored this country’s collective identity for too long. That is when I began to work on creating a new design using hearts and hands along with the number 215+. Together they represent both heartache and hope, and in further acknowledging the truth of Canada’s foundations, another step along the journey towards reconciliation.

—Carey Newman, UVic visual artist and designer of UVic's Orange Shirt Day t-shirt

UVic visual artist Carey Newman (Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish) and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers pose in their orange shirts in front of the First Peoples' House on the UVic campus.
Rogers and Newman during Orange Shirt Day 2019.

The year’s program focuses on the themes of reconciliation—past, present and future—and will begin with the lighting of a sacred fire, territorial acknowledgement and a Lekwungen drum group at 9 a.m. in the quad on Wednesday, Sept. 29. At noon, Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and UVic faculty member Andrea Walsh will share their memories of being honorary witnesses for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At 4:30 p.m., President Kevin Hall will talk about the future of Indigenous education followed by a cultural presentation to close the day’s events. Ry Moran, UVic’s Associate University Librarian–Reconciliation, will be the MC of the day’s live activities, which will also be streamed on UVic's YouTube channel:

The first of two screenings of residential school-focused films take place on Monday, Sept. 27, from 1–3 p.m. at Cinecenta: Christine Welsh’s film Kuper Island: Return to the Healing Circle will be followed by a panel discussion with Welsh, Robina Thomas, Steve Sxwithul’tuxw and Ry Moran.

On Tuesday, Sept. 28 from 7–9 p.m., two documentaries will screen at First Peoples House: Barb Cranmer’s I’tustogalis: Rising Up Together—Our Voices, Our Stories, and Barbara Hager’s Truth Dance and Reconciliation. Both screenings are open to the public. Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to the Elders Engagement Fund.

Orange Shirt Day T-shirts with Newman’s heart and hands design are available at the UVic Bookstore for $25. Profits from the sales will go the Elders Engagement Fund, the Witness Blanket Project and the Orange Shirt Day Society

See the full events schedule for Orange Shirt Day 2021

Campus will be closed for the statutory holiday on Sept. 30.


In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, reconciliation, residential schools, Orange Shirt Day

People: Carey Newman, Ry Moran, Shelagh Rogers, Andrea Walsh

Publication: The Ring

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