On September 30, flags will be at half-mast throughout the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) and staff and students will be dressed in orange, to recognize and share in learning for the 8th annual Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
These two special recognition days go hand-in-hand to recognize the tragic residential school experience of many, honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families and commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
Students across our school district will be participating in various events and activities at their schools and within their communities to further classroom discussions and learning.
Kindergarten to Grade 8 students will have the opportunity to participate in a webinar with author Christy Jordan-Fenton, the co-author of Fatty Legs: A True Story and When I Was Eight. In the webinar, she will recount her Inuvialuk mother-in-law Margaret Olemaun’s time at a remote arctic residential school in the 1940s.
At Almonte District High School there will be an Indigenous Smudging Ceremony to commemorate residential school victims, survivors, and their family members and an outdoor assembly where staff and students will plant a heart garden. Students decorated the halls of the school with Orange Shirt Day artwork and are dedicating a page in the yearbook to this special day.
Char-Lan District High School invited Feryn King, an Indigenous hoop dancer, to perform an outdoor dance to the song ‘Unforgotten’ by Indigenous artist Iskwe. This is the second year that the school has invited King to perform.
Indigenous Studies classes from Gananoque Secondary School and Thousand Islands Secondary School helped support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation walk-through event to be held on September 30 at Hardy Park in Brockville. The students created accompanying visuals for the 94 Calls to Action by researching their importance and significance to the reconciliation process.
Students and staff at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI) will wear orange on September 30 and have planned a greater celebration on Friday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 2. The school, in collaboration with the town of Smiths Falls, is hosting a two-day event filled with learning, dancing and drumming demonstrations with their Haudenasaunee-Mohawk and Anishinaabe/Algonquin Indigenous partners from Pikwakanagan and Kitigan Zibi.
On Friday, SFDCI classes will participate in Indigenous dancing, drumming and teaching sessions at the school’s soon-to-be-planted medicine wheel garden and turtle-shaped forest. That evening, starting at 7 p.m., there will be a community ‘Every Child Matters’ candlelight walk from the water tower to the Powwow grounds on Duck Island, where words of Reconciliation will be spoken.
On Saturday, there will be additional dancing, drumming and cultural teachings sessions, starting at 12 p.m., for the entire community outside, at the school.
“This day is an opportunity for our classrooms and communities to pause, reflect and have conversations about the lasting impacts of residential schools,” says Kelty Grant, UCDSB Principal of Indigenous Education. “I am so proud of our schools for taking these extra steps and organizing special events in recognition of the day.”
“At the UCDSB, we are committed to Truth and Reconciliation,” says UCDSB Director of Education Ron Ferguson. “After the horrific findings at former residential schools earlier this year, it’s so important that we continue to have meaningful conversations in our classrooms, share in the truths of our country’s past and work toward building partnerships with our Indigenous communities.”