Today is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a solemn day of remembrance and an opportunity for Canadians to acknowledge the intergenerational harm caused by Indian residential schools.
It is incredibly moving to witness the sea of orange shirts worn by students and staff at St. Luke today. The “orange shirt” worn on this day references the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad was given by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt. It was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange has always reminded her of her experiences at residential school and, as she has said, “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.” Phyllis Webstad’s experience of having her orange shirt taken from her is symbolic of all that was taken from Indigenous peoples as a result of Indian residential schools and is why we wear orange on September 30th. The colour orange encourages us to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
There is still much to be done on the journey of reconciliation, but we can all do our part. It is our responsibility to take time to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples, the effects Indian residential schools have on Indigenous families, and the positive contributions Indigenous peoples have had and continue to have in our community, and across Canada.
Prayer for Truth and Reconciliation
Holy One, Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, of story and of song, of heartbeat and of tears, of bodies, souls, voices and all relations: you are the God of all truth and the way of all reconciliation. Come upon us, O Divine Healer, and open our eyes to the injustices brought against the Indigenous peoples of this land, their languages and cultures. May you be known for healing and wholeness, rather than being blamed for abuses that were brought about by human weakness and hostility. Make us people of integrity and bearers of hope, that we may commit to restoring relationships and to journeying together, as Non Indigenous and Indigenous brothers and sisters, to a place of peace in you, where every tear will be wiped away, and every sorrow turned to joy. Give us one heart and one mind to walk together in the love and strength of your Spirit, in truth, reconciliation, and peace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our brother, our Lord, and our hope. Amen.