On September 30th, Trafalgar students and staff had the privilege of gathering with Kanienkeha’ka First Nations Art Therapist and 3rd Generation Residential School Survivor, Megan Kanerahtenhá:wi Whyte and her step-daughter Iotsistokwatenion Montour (Sec. II) who helped everyone to honour and commemorate the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
This solemn day mourns the lost children and survivors of Canada’s residential schools, their families, and their communities. September 30th is also Orange Shirt Day, which recalls the experience of Phyllis Webstad, who on her first day at a residential school had her new orange shirt taken from her, in what has become a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and community experienced by Indigenous children over generations.
Following a Land Acknowledgement and introduction by Ms. Nikidis, Junior and Senior students divided into two groups, with Sec. I and IIs going to the caf with Iotsistokwatenion, and Sec. III, IV, and V staying in the gym with Kanerahtenhá:wi. They took each group through a series of specially designed activities, which helped to explore some of the deeper issue behind the day, such as its meaning and significance, what happened in residential schools, the impact this history had and still has on the Native communities around us. and how we can make a difference. This helped everyone to understand in a very powerful and poignant way the strength of connected community its importance to children, and what happens when that connection is broken and children are cut off from their families.
After the activities, the full school came back together in the Gym where students and staff were asked to write a reflection on their experiences that morning and what they had learned from them.
These reflections have been assembled into an orange t-shirt design, and are now displayed on the Traf Girl mural at the Simpson Street entrance.