Orange Shirt Day - September 30
Phyllis Webstad, a member of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation in British Columbia, was forced to attend St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, as her relatives before her. She entered the school in 1973, having just turned six years old, wearing a brand new orange shirt her grandmother had bought for her. It was immediately confiscated by the staff and replaced with a uniform. She never saw her new orange shirt again, and began to associate the colour with the traumatic experiences in the school, including the theft of language and cultural identity she endured.
In 2013, Webstad transformed her dehumanizing experiences of residential school into something positive by working with then National Grand Chief Shawn Atleo and the Assembly of First Nations to establish a nationally recognized Orange Shirt Day. Marked annually on September 30th, this day acknowledges the residential school system in Canada, honours those that survived, remembers those who did not, and recognizes the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma. It is a day to demonstrate, by wearing orange, that all students matter. In the words of survivor and author Larry Loyie, it may also be seen as a day for “the students of today who want to know about the students of yesterday” (Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors, 2014).
Orange Shirt Day has been marked across Canada in a variety of ways, including Orange Ribbon campaigns, commemorative walks, and wearing orange shirts. Through social media campaigns it has also gone global, reaching as far as Italy and Sweden. Over 6500 survivor statements have been collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which concluded in 2016 after six years of research and testimonies. The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair has stated “reconciliation must fall in the hands of Canadians, not solely with Indigenous peoples.” Ultimately, wearing orange shirts on September 30 is a visual reminder of our shared past as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, and provides an opportunity for dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in shaping our shared future.
Visit orangshirtday.org to learn more about this year's commemorative events..
Indigenous Education Month in the Toronto District School Board
In November, we celebrate Indigenous Education Month at the TDSB. This month provides an opportunity to re-examine how Indigenous perspectives, histories and contemporary realities may be centred across the curricula, and to focus on treaties and the legacy of residential schools.
At the TDSB, all students should feel supported, have a sense of belonging and feel respected and valued. Ensuring these values are at the core of Indigenous education, is a priority.
By centering Indigenous perspectives across curriculum in all areas, we want to create inclusive spaces for students to see themselves reflected as individuals and validated within the school community.
Indigenous education is not just for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students, but for all students and staff. When non-Indigenous people learn about the rich histories, cultures and contemporary contexts of diverse Indigenous peoples, cross-cultural understandings occurs and a common commitment is formed, leading to equitable and more inclusive learning spaces.
We value the opportunity to collaborate with community members, educators and policy makers to deepen knowledge and understanding of Indigenous perspectives in supporting student success and well-being. The TDSB works actively in consultation with Indigenous community members, families and organizations as community engagement is crucial to building and strengthening relationships.
One space where this consultation and collaboration takes place is through the Urban Indigenous Community Advisory Committee.This committee, which meets on a monthly basis, is comprised of First Nations, Métis and Inuit parents/guardians and community members who provide guidance, feedback and input on TDSB policies and programs.
Resources have been posted for teachers which can be accessed by TDSB staff.
Please contact the TDSB’s Urban Indigenous Education Centre for support including the Best Practices for infusing Indigenous Education across the curriculum, during November or any day, at 416-393-9600.
Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario, November 4-8
At the TDSB, we will celebrate the inaugural Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario. It is a time for everyone in Ontario to recognize the treaties that shape our province and bring awareness to treaty rights and treaty relationships.
To mark Treaties Recognition Week, the Government of Ontario has been working with Indigenous partners to offer a series of educational resources and events. A dedicated online treaties resource library will be launched on ontario.ca/treaties featuring educational guides, videos and tools developed by Indigenous organizations for teachers and students across the province.
To complement the online resource library, the Urban Indigenous Education Centre is also working with partners to offer a network of Indigenous speakers to share their perspectives on treaties in schools across Ontario. Contact the UIEC with questions you may have about Treaties Week.
Louis Riel Day, November 16
Louis Riel was a great Métis leader who helped his people form a government and become part of the newly created Dominion of Canada in 1870. Fearing their rights would be overridden, by the new Canadian government, Métis People at the Red River settlement demanded the right to enter Confederation on their own terms. Louis Riel emerged as the spokesperson for the settlement and in 1870 Métis people challenged Canada's right to their homeland in an event known as the Red River Resistance. Riel insisted that Red River was prepared to join Canada but wanted guarantees of the Métis right to continue their culture. The result was the Manitoba Act, which contained most of the guarantees the Métis people had wanted.
However, the Canadian government did not honour its obligations to the Métis, and as a result, Métis people were further displaced. Fearing that more and more Métis lands would be lost to new settlers, Louis Riel was asked to lead his people once again in asserting Métis rights. In 1884, Louis Riel returned from exile to present the Métis concerns to the Canadian government. Despite Riel's assistance, the federal government ignored Métis concerns, which led to the declaration of a provisional Métis government. This culminated in armed conflict between the Métis and the Canadian government. Louis Riel was captured, charged and tried for treason. On November 16, 1885 he was executed by the Canadian government for leading the Northwest Resistance in defense of Métis rights and the Métis way-of-life.
Every year Louis Riel Day is held to remember what Riel sacrificed and renew the commitment to completing his work. The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) celebrates Louis Riel Day to recognize the many contributions of the Métis to Canada and to highlight the continuing struggles that Métis continue to face. “We celebrate this day to recognize our ongoing struggle to fulfill Louis Riel’s dream that the Métis take their rightful place within Confederation.” MNO President Gary Lipinski.
The Métis are recognized as one of the IndigenousPeoples of Canada by the Constitution Act of 1982. Louis Riel Day is a time to recognize and respect the history, culture and identity of Métis people. Additionally, the City of Toronto proclaimed November 16, “Louis Riel Day” and the Métis flag is raised at City Hall.
Today, Riel is considered the founder of Manitoba and is recognized by the Métis and other people as an advocate for minority rights in Canada. As stated by former Métis Nation of Ontario President, Tony Belcourt, ''November 16th marks a significant occasion of observance for the Métis Nation. This date gives us an opportunity to bring about an enlightened focus on the significant role and achievements of Louis Riel and the Métis Nation in the building of Canada.''
For more information visit:
Métis Nation of Ontario
Toronto and York Region Métis Council
Inuit Day, November 7
On Inuit Day we recognize the cultures, histories, contemporary contexts and rich contributions of Inuit peoples in our city and across the country.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs issued the following statement about Inuit Day:
“Today is also an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the important relationship and history we share with the Inuit of Canada as we move forward in our journey of reconciliation and a renewed relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples."
Read the full Statement on Inuit Day..
Commemorating Indigenous Veterans, November 8
Indigenous peoples have a long history of defending Canada and supporting its war efforts abroad.
From the War of 1812, when the military strategies of the great Shawnee warrior Chief Tecumseh played a pivotal role in the defeat of the Americans, to their active participation in World Wars I and II, the Korean War and beyond, Indigenous soldiers have made significant contributions to Canada. During the First World War, for example, participation by Canada’s Indigenous peoples was proportionally higher than that of any other group in Canada, with one in three Indigenous males enlisting as foot soldiers, scouts, or snipers. In one instance every male of the Nawash Reserve on Georgian Bay (Chippewas) enlisted, as did all but three on the Golden Lake Reserve (Algonquins).
More than 500 Indigenous soldiers died in World Wars I and II. Altogether, more than 7,000 Status Natives and 5,000 Non-Status Natives, along with a large number of Métis and Inuit people, left their homes and families to serve Canada in those two conflicts. Many Indigenous women served as nurses tending the wounded. And those who remained in Canada also made important contributions, donating over $67,000 to war relief through the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and offering up reserve land for use as defense posts, airports and training grounds.
At the time, Indigenous soldiers were highly praised for their courage and recognized for their front-line efforts. Many were decorated with honours and awards. Yet upon their return to Canada following the war, Indigenous veterans were enfranchised, their sacrifices largely forgotten while their rights and status as Indigenous Peoples were taken away.
On Remembrance Day and throughout Veterans' Week, take time to learn more about the contributions and sacrifices of Canada’s Indigenous veterans.
National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day
During the month of June, people across the country mark National Indigenous History Month in recognition of the rights, histories and extraordinary achievements of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The unique cultures and perspectives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities are celebrated nationally and locally.
June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is held around the time of the summer solstice - the longest day of the year - and is of spiritual significance for many Indigenous peoples. In schools across the Toronto District School Board, we honour this day through building knowledge about the histories and current contexts of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
A growing number of Indigenous students and families are joining us at the TDSB. Through the Urban Indigenous Education Centre, we are dedicated to developing programs that meet the needs of Indigenous students and families and that enable all students and staff to learn from Indigenous perspectives.
On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we also mark a number of important events that occurred in recent years. To provide a few examples, these include:
There is much to learn and to celebrate. We hope you’ll join us!
The History of National Indigenous Peoples Day
- The National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of National Indigenous Solidarity Day in 1982.
- In 1995, the Royal Commission on IndigenousPeoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day and the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous peoples.
- National Indigenous Day was created in 1996 by then-Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, in consultation with many Indigenous groups and peoples. This day was later renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day.
For a full listing of National Indigenous Peoples Day events taking place in Toronto and across Canada, visit the National Indigenous Peoples Day Government website.