These past several days have brought attention to the concepts of truth and reconciliation as the land known as Canada held its first observation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
September 30th was also Orange Shirt Day, which focuses on those who were forced to attend the Indian Boarding Schools, those institutions of forced assimilation.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.
The annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30th opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind. A discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. A day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those that have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.
It all started right here in the Cariboo, and as a result, School District No. 27 was chosen by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) to pilot curriculum changes for all Grade 5 and Grade 10 students reflecting the residential school experience, which have now been implemented province-wide.
On this day of September 30th, we call upon humanity to listen with open ears to the stories of survivors and their families, and to remember those that didn’t make it.
What does it mean to listen with open ears? This implies that we often do not really listen. When was the last time you changed anything based upon what you were hearing? James Allen says, “we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves”. As my friend Lucy Duncan says here, we white Quakers believe a number of myths. Listening with open ears requires a conscious effort to jump over the barriers of those myths we tell ourselves.
During our gatherings for Quaker meetings for worship we listen for the voice of the Creator. Are we really open to the leadings of the Spirit? Are we looking past the myths? Are we listening with open ears? And then do we have the courage to do what the Spirit is asking of us?
“We White Quakers like to revel in our myths about ourselves. These include “we were all abolitionists”; “we all worked on the Underground Railroad”; and “none of us were slaveholders.” Often there are kernels of truth in myths, but the truth is more complex. Myths exist to veil the complexity and contradictions of our history, to obfuscate the differences between who we think we are and who we really are and have been… Perhaps the revolutionary Quaker faith we imagine ourselves to inhabit has never really existed, and if we tell the whole truth and commit to the healing the truth-telling calls us to, perhaps together we can embody and create the prophetic religion we thirst for.” –Lucy Duncan, “A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation”
Query: What myths are you facing? What truths are you embracing?
If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being. This will not be easy. The myths of this age are deeply rooted in our culture. The talking heads (even the green ones) echo these myths with the dogmatic fervour of zealots. They talk of “saving the planet” through transitioning to a “sustainable” future, primarily through new renewable energy technologies. They seem only able to conceive of a good life that mirrors our lives more or less as they are now, where the living standard continues to improve and rate of consumption continues to grow, yet somehow decoupled from all the pollution, destruction and guilt.
Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019
I think about what I want for my children and grandchildren. What I want
for them is to be loved and love other people in this country. Not to tolerate
them, not to go to our respective corners and stop hurting each other, but
to be wrapped up and engaged in each other’s lives.
Kwulasultun (Coast Salish name), Tliishin (Nuu-chah-nulth name),
Director of the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation
(VIU), former Chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation