Orange Shirt Day brings the community together to commemorate The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Andre Gomelyuk - Staff Writer
Local organizations came together on Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to host Orange Shirt Day at the Town Beach.
The morning started with a sunrise ceremony which included a sacred fire.
The Orange Shirt Day event included a free BBQ, drumming and dancing. Orange shirts were provided at the event.
The event was hosted by First Step Women’s Shelter (FSWS), Ontario Native Women’s Association, Aah-shawah-bin Victim Support Services, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, St. Andrew’s United Church and Northwestern Health Unit.
Throughout the afternoon, school classes, with their teachers, came to the BBQ, enjoying hamburgers and hotdogs.
Treena Ashmugeesha, an organizer for Orange Shirt Day, explained more about the day and what would be in store for the participants, “This is the second year we’ve done an event for Orange Shirt Day. It is something that we all feel is important to recognize and acknowledge. This movement began many years ago within the Indigenous community, but with it becoming nationally recognized last year, it has grown immensely and so many more people are supporting it. We wanted to host an event that everyone could attend to grow together. A place that the Indian Residential School Survivors, their families, friends and fellow community members could gather together to celebrate our resilience; to learn about residential schools, to see that our Indigenous people are still here, still speaking the language, still singing our traditional songs and practicing our traditional way of life. This is why it was important that we incorporated the Grandmother drum, the round dance, the sacred fire, tobacco ties and the orange shirts into today’s gathering.” Ashmugeesha continued, “Living and working in a community with a high population of Indigenous families - many of which we work firsthand with, it is vital that we move forward in a good way and continue to build positive relationships. So much was lost with Indian Residential Schools, but not everything. As frontline community service workers, we have to ensure that we are mindful of this and always push towards reconciliation within the community, reconnection to culture and education for all generations.” Allan Walski, a youth development worker at the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, took care of the ceremonial Grandmother drum, which he shared came to him in a dream to be built naming it “Tanang Binesi Que” meaning “Last Thunderbird”. Walski shared his thoughts on the day, “It’s really nice to have a get together like this and honour the children that went missing and starting to locate them. I think a lot of people need healing which is why we have a traditional drum here. I did a lot of healing with this drum. I try to give them knowledge. The reason why we do this is for healing for our people. This was banned a long time ago. It was taken away from us.” Walski shared that the drum needs to be taken care of, “It’s a person and a spirit. It was all a living thing at one point. The trees, the moosehide on it, everything.” Walski shared that the drum is more than just as an instrument but a tool for learning and healing. He explained the four healing staffs and the power they hold, can render their prayer to the creator by song.
Ivory Moquano a local community member shared her positivity at seeing the community filled with orange shirts expressing, “It’s really nice seeing people with the orange shirts and actually accepting it as a holiday.”