215 simple, slightly tattered orange ribbons now line the Pat Bay Highway on Vancouver Island.
“My heart is raw from this,” said James Taylor, who is Ojibwe, living in the Greater Victoria area. “It’s something that was spoken about by so many people but no one would listen.”
From Swartz Bay to Mile Zero, half-a-dozen islanders symbolically tied one ribbon for every child found at the former Kamloops Residential School.
“It’s just horrible. They’re babies. They’re little ones. They’re kids,” said Taylor.
The grief from this past week is now making way, into action.
“For the first time ever there’s a critical mass of Canadians thinking about our relationship, thinking about the harm, thinking about that history, thinking about how we can reconcile,” said Chief Robert Joseph, a St. Michael’s Residential School survivor, and Reconciliation Canada Ambassador. “That’s a huge jump. That’s probably the most important step forward.”
Now, many Canadians are wondering how they can help.
Many say, it often starts with simply listening.
“It’s the people that are going to bring this ‘reconciliation’ about, by hearing the stories, by coming out and educating themselves,” said Taylor.
Indigenous people say that is when real reconciliation can start.
“You can demand change too. You can demand that governments do better, and you can donate money. There is just a profound and pressing lack of resources that still many communities are deeply challenged by,” said Ry Moran, the University of Victoria’s Reconciliation librarian.
As more mass burial sites at residential schools across Canada will likely be discovered, ongoing counselling for survivors and their families will be desperately needed.
This is just the beginning of a very long process, we’re going to need those supports over the long term,” said Lou-Ann Neel, a Kwakwaka’wakw artist, and Indigenous advocate.
Indigenous people are saying, however, that perhaps the most important thing to do is start calling out racism.
“When you hear prejudice, stand in and lean into it to say that’s not how we want to live together anymore. We’re not willing to accept that as being okay anymore in this society,” said Moran.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
An app that non-Indigenous Canadians can use to see whose territorial land they are on. Find out more about where you live here.
Indian Residential School Survivors Society
A British Columbia-based organization providing services to residential school survivors. It started 20 years ago by helping residential school survivors navigate the court systems and has since expanded to help descendants of residential school survivors and engaging in community education for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You can donate here.
Legacy of Hope Foundation
Works to educate people on residential schools and the Sixties Scoop and the intergenerational impact that these traumatic events had on Indigenous people. You can find ways to donate here.
Orange Shirt Society
Orange Shirt Society is a B.C.-based group that aims to educate people on the intergenerational impacts of residential schools. It offers resources for teachers for Orange Shirt Day, held every year on Sept. 30. Donate here.
Reconciliation Canada works to educate people about Indigenous life and history to teach non-Indigenous people about reconciliation and strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You can donate here.
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society aims to provide quality education to First Nations youth and families. It aims to promote the rights of First Nations children and families. You can donate here.
Canadian Roots Exchange
The Canadian Roots Exchange is a youth-led organization that aims to empower young Canadians to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people. Donate here.
Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society
The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society works with residential school survivors and provides outreach and cultural support out of Lantzville, Vancouver Island. Donate here.
Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund works to provide education on the history of Indigenous people and the legacy of residential schools. Donate here.