Don’t let Orange Shirts cover up the truth of residential school

Recently a Kahonwe that I know shared a story online. Said scone brought their child to school off the Rez and was talking to their child’s teacher about Orange Shirt Day recognizing the memory of residential school survivors. Parent told teacher, “yeah, my father went to residential school.” Teacher replied to the parent saying, “oh really, that’s so cool.” Said scone was then launched 1000 meters into the outer realms of the time-space continuum as she tried to logically grasp the cultural genocide and abuse of her father being called “so cool”.

No. Not cool. Fact: nothing will change your life and perspective of Canada more than a survivor of the Residential School system sitting in front of you, covered in the snot and tears of their fifty year secret.

This is a thing I’ve been pondering lately. Yes, taking the time to recognize the strength and resiliency of those who survived the residential school system is very important. But what we are doing to recognize those survivors is very important because the trauma is so real still so close to the surface of our families — that I’m not sure wearing orange shirts is the best campaign.

This is totally just my personal opinion here. But given the conversation I mentioned earlier what are we bringing into awareness when it comes to orange shirts? What is the messaging? Are we disclosing the graphic details of the sexual molestation of thousands of children in the grade two class of our local elementary schools when they are wearing their orange shirts? Are we taking the time to explain what ‘cultural genocide’ actually means to a real family? And sidebar – are we then turning around on July 1st and wearing our red and white shirts to celebrate the nation that legislated that cultural genocide into the Canadian fabric that then necessitated an orange shirt campaign to raise awareness of the genocide?

Of course there are age appropriate means to bringing the truth into the light when it comes to Canada’s history of legislating indigenous children out of their families and into the brainwashing stations they called schools across the country for nearly 100 years. But the absolute worst thing we could do to the truth part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work is to trivialize those children’s stories by slapping an orange shirt all over the place and now a little nudge from Ottawa to embrace September 30 as our national indigneous holiday.

Um, fellas. We already have a national indigenous holdiday and we called it Solidarity Day but you changed that too and turned it into “Aboriginal Day” and then changed it again to “Indigenous People’s Day” and now you’re gonna change it again to “Orange Shirt Day”.

Is anyone else seeing a pattern here? We get moved all over the map, all over the calendar, all over the legislating table until we conveniently fit into Canada’s Indian Cupboard where they like us to stay.

For perspective: we don’t have red shirt day on November 11. On Rememberance Day we  recognize the loss of life and the fight against tyranny for our freedom with sombre events like trumpets and wreath laying.

I can’t help but wonder if the orange shirt campaign is being so picked up by Canada’s systems to whitewash our pain. Lest we forget our fifty year secrets — and the reason we are here in the first place.

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