September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in what is now known as Canada. This day, which has also been known as Orange Shirt Day, serves as a day of remembrance, reflection, learning, and action. It is in recognition of the atrocities of residential schools and commemorates the history as well as the ongoing legacy and impact of residential schools.
I humbly recognize my own biases and ignorance as I continue to educate myself on this issue and continue to have the uncomfortable conversations with my children so that they grow up with an understanding much different than the one I was (or wasn’t) taught as a child.
Conversations about the way Indigenous peoples, including the children of residential schools, have been treated in Canada can be difficult but they are necessary. I’ve written some tips below on how to have these conversations.
I have also compiled a list of resources including where to purchase an Orange Shirt from an Indigenous designer, books for children about residential schools, Indigenous advocates on social media, and further information about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Reports and Calls To Action.
How to Talk to Kids about Residential Schools, Truth, and Reconciliation
1. Educate yourself. This critical piece of history was missing from the curriculum of many children. This is an opportunity now for you to seek out reliable sources, especially from Indigenous writers, and learn the painful history. Prepare yourself for the conversations with your children and understand and reflect on your own biases and beliefs.
2. Be honest. Those of you who have been in my community for a while know how important honesty is to me as a parent. I strongly believe all conversations, including those challenging topics, need to be grounded in the truth at a developmentally appropriate level.
3. Use books. Children’s books like the ones listed below make excellent catalysts for discussion.
4. Adjust your Language. Use language based on the level your child will understand. For young children, you may say something like, “there was a time that Indigenous children were taken away from their families and forced to go to schools far away from home and they weren’t allowed to speak their languages or show their culture”. For older children, you may talk more specifically about the abuses that happened in residential schools.
5. Have a dialogue. Rather than simply sharing the information, ask your child questions about their perspectives, what they feel about what they’ve learned, and their thoughts about equity and justice.
6. Have ongoing conversations. Continue discussions on an ongoing basis focused on the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada as well as broader issues related to being anti-racist and taking action.
7. Take Action. Read the Calls to Action and consider the reconciliActions you can take with your family including visiting museums, reading books together, or attending local Indigenous cultural events.
Where to buy an Orange Shirt
Please consider where you purchase your Orange Shirt and who designed it. Consider supporting a local Indigenous designer and merchant. If you purchase from a major retailer, investigate where the proceeds are going to and what percentage.