Orange Shirt Day and the First Ever National Truth and Reconciliation Day at the NAC

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The NAC’s Kipnes Lantern features artwork evoking the resiliency and strength of Indigenous peoples. © Dany Pépin
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The Mush Hole, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre © Ian R Maracle
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The NAC’s Kipnes Lantern features artwork evoking the resiliency and strength of Indigenous peoples. © Dany Pépin

On September 30, Canadians observe Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new federal statutory holiday. This is the day Canadians wear orange to remember the Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools and never returned, and to honour Survivors, their families and their communities.

To mark the occasion, the National Arts Centre Indigenous Theatre created programming to encourage dialogue and learning about residential schools and their effects on Indigenous communities. More details.

NAC offerings from September 27 to 29 included reading lists, workshops, videos and colouring pages that educate students and the general public about residential schools. There were also activities on the revitalization of Indigenous languages, on beading, powwow dance, land acknowledgements and how non-Indigenous individuals can become better allies to Indigenous peoples.

Today, on September 30, the NAC’s three-storey Kipnes Lantern in Ottawa features artwork evoking the resiliency and strength of Indigenous peoples.

Kevin Loring, Artistic Director of NAC Indigenous Theatre, described the programming as follows:

“Our programming is an opportunity to educate and share the truths of Indigenous peoples with the rest of the country because, without truth there can be no reconciliation. These activities help us reclaim the things that residential schools tried to erase. The Day for Truth and Reconciliation is also a time to celebrate, to tell our stories and share the beauty and vibrancy of our communities. Our hope is that these educational offerings will shed light on how folx outside of the Indigenous community can support us and walk with us moving forward.”

About the Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada heard the heart-wrenching testimony of thousands of Indigenous residential school Survivors. Their experiences were published in 2015 in a comprehensive report that included 94 Calls to Action.

One of the Calls to Action states:

#80 We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that the public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The National Day evolved out of the grass-roots Orange Shirt Day, which reminds us that every child matters. It is a solemn time to learn and reflect on what all of us can do to eliminate structural and overt racism, as well as other forms of discrimination, in our workplace, our community and our country. It is about acknowledging the truth in our collective history and the ongoing inequities faced by Indigenous peoples across this land. The day is also about hope for the future and how Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can work together to create a better future for all.

NAC Offerings

Residential School Reading List (September 27-29)
Uncover books about the experience of Survivors, their families, their communities and others affected by the residential school system.

Indigenous Language Colouring Pages (Ongoing)
Explore an expanded version of the NAC’s Indigenous language colouring pages.

Indigenous Allyship Workshop (September 27-29)
Get a better understanding of Indigenous issues and how to be a better Indigenous ally (for students and teachers).

Powwow Dance Interactive Workshop (September 27-29)
Learn about the meaning and history behind powwows and regalia.

Beyond Land Acknowledgements (September 28)
Go beyond the templates and hollow statements and learn how to create a meaningful land acknowledgement.

Panel Discussions (September 29)
Distinguished Indigenous panellists will discuss artistic responses to residential schools, the impact on Survivors, families and communities, as well as the responsibility artists have when connecting with this subject. 

Beaded Orange Shirt Workshop (September 27)
Learn how to make a beaded pin. Suitable for beginner beaders and experienced beaders alike, ages 16 and up.

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