Recognizing Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On September 30, Durham College (DC) recognized Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by hosting a number of events on the day of and leading up to September 30 to help foster understanding and a commitment to change. These events included a presentation by Pamela Post on Indigenous representation in media, a book club discussion of Phyllis Webstad’s “Beyond the Orange shirt story,” and a trip to the Heber Downs conservation area, where Traditional Medicine Keeper Joseph Pitawanakwat guided participants through an exploratory walk to learn about edible plant medicines.

The Naanaagide’endamowin Courtyard

Members of the campus community also gathered for a special ceremony in the Naanaagide’endamowin courtyard, which means The Art of Thinking. The courtyard is now home to the Pathway of Pause and Reflection, featuring six QR codes that link to information about Land Acknowledgements, the Indigenous Histories Modules, 13 Moons, Sacred Medicines, the Weeping Willow, and upcoming events at the First Peoples Indigenous Centre (FPIC).

At the ceremony, Dr. Elder Shirley Williams offered an opening prayer and shared the significance of recognizing Orange Shirt Day in educational institutions. Don Lovisa, president of DC, offered remarks on the college’s responsibility to ensure that Indigenous voices are included in ongoing conversations and that space is being held and encouraged, with Indigenous involvement at the forefront of the college.

This ceremony signalled a commitment to increasing awareness and understanding of our shared history by acknowledging our role and responsibility in reconciliation, as well as our commitment to honour Residential School survivors, their families, and communities.

Announcing the special naming stone

In the coming days, a special naming stone will be installed in the courtyard, honouring the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, held on September 30, 2021. This stone will welcome people to the space and encourage introspection as visitors seek knowledge by using the QR codes throughout the garden to learn more about Truth and Reconciliation and the work of the FPIC.

Lighting the campus orange

At sundown, the Oshawa campus’ Centre for Collaborative Education and the Whitby campus’ main building will both be illuminated orange. In doing this, we know it will increase awareness in our communities about Truth and Reconciliation and pay tribute to all the lives lost.

We hope that the DC community will continue to use the Naanaagide’endamowin Courtyard, sheltered under the branches of the weeping willow, for reflection and quiet contemplation on the lives that were forever altered by the Indian Residential School system, remembering those children who never returned to the loving care of their communities. The courtyard also serves as a place where individuals can review the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and consider what they can do personally and professionally to ensure these calls to action are fully recognized.

You can learn more about FPIC online.