By – Mrs. Charlene Smoke, Chair of The Indigenous Education Committee, Grade 5 Teacher
The orange and red shirts have become powerful conversation starters, prompting discussions about important issues such as the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, Canada's treaty obligations, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and the disparities in socio-economic outcomes. By wearing these shirts, we contribute to raising awareness and fostering dialogue about these critical topics. Wearing orange or red draws attention to the profound impacts of this history and the lasting effects it has had on Indigenous communities.
Symbolically, the orange and red shirts represent the loss of Indigenous identities within the residential school system. However, it is said that the association of these colors with the First Nations dates to ancient times, when they symbolized sunshine, truth-telling, health, regeneration, strength, and power. Today, wearing these shirts not only highlights the dark legacy of the residential schools but also pays homage to the resilience and beauty of Indigenous cultures.
Demonstrate your Support, Deepen your Understanding
As we approach National Indigenous Peoples Day (held nationally on June 21), I encourage all of us to wear an orange or red shirt to demonstrate our support. By doing so, we can actively participate in the commemoration of Canada's legacy of Indian Residential Schools. To deepen our understanding of this history, I invite you to visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website, where you can learn more about the experiences and stories of Indigenous Peoples.
Throughout the month, we have an opportunity to honour the rich history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous Peoples. It is a time for celebration, but also a time for us to increase our understanding of Indigenous history and reflect upon the challenges faced by Indigenous communities today.
While wearing an orange or red shirt is a meaningful gesture, I would also like to encourage you to consider other ways to honor and appreciate Indigenous cultures. This could include wearing Indigenous-made earrings or other items that showcase the beauty and resilience of Indigenous traditions. Let us come together as a community and use this occasion to foster empathy, understanding, and respect for Indigenous peoples. By actively engaging in these conversations and taking small steps toward reconciliation, we can contribute to a brighter and more inclusive future for all Canadians.
About the Author
Mrs. Charlene Smoke
Chair of The Indigenous Education Committee, Grade 5 Teacher
Charlene has mixed Indigenous ancestry and is a member of the Alderville First Nation (Mississauga Ojibwe) in Southern Ontario. She was born and raised on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Charlene is a mother, wife, and lifelong learner with three degrees in Indigenous Education. She's passionate about sharing with others the value of Indigenous epistemology and Ways of Knowing. She is a Grade 5 teacher and the Chair of the Indigenous Education Committee at Meadowridge School and part of the ISABC Indigenous Education Group and the ISABC Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group.