MV honours first federal statutory holiday for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Sarah Crookall
Staff Reporter

Bright orange shirts and banners decorate the Madawaska Valley (MV) this week, symbolizing that every Indigenous child matters.

The first federal statutory holiday to recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation takes place on Sept. 30.

As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, the federal government passed bill C-5 to recognize the federal holiday in June. The bill follows the uncovering of 215 unmarked graves from a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and others including over 700 graves found at a former residential school in Marieval, Sask.

“For me personally, I’ve been impacted by the residential school experience both of my grandparents went to a residential school,” says Naomi Sarazin, the operation manager of Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin, the Algonquin Way Cultural Centre.

“And I’m grateful for still being rooted in who I am as an Anishnabae and being rooted in my culture. My mother tongue language has been lost in the family to residential schools.”

Sept. 30 was originally Orange Shirt Day, which commemorated the time of year when Indigenous children were sent to residential schools across Canada. It honours the story of a residential school survivor, six-year-old Phyllis Jack Webstad, who had her orange shirt that was gifted by her grandmother taken from her.

The Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation are celebrating the day online with a video screening. The video will highlight the community’s culture, singing, and Algonquin language. Names of residential school attendees from the First Nation will also be honoured.

“With the pandemic it’s been very hard to connect with community, but the way that we’ve been connecting is online,” says Sarazin. She adds that the video screening aims to uplift children and youth in the community.

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