April 13, 2024

Truth and Reconciliation Week was hosted throughout various campuses at Conestoga College to raise awareness and acknowledge the truth of Canada’s wrongful history surrounding First Nations peoples.

This fundraiser will continue through Sept. 25 to Sept. 29, 2023.

Orange Shirt Day originated in 2013 to honour Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools in Canada.

Conestoga College’s bookstores at the Kitchener – Doon, Cambridge – Reuter Drive, and Kitchener Downtown campuses sold T-shirts for $25. On Monday, Sept. 25, shirts designed by Jay Soule from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation were available for purchase.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives hosted an orange shirt fundraiser that benefited the Kawenniio/Gaweni:yo Gayogohono (Cayuga) and Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) immersion school in Six Nations.

“With an immersion style of learning these kids are growing up with everything that residential schools have taken away from Indigenous People,” said Danielle Boissoneau, Director of Indigenous Initiatives at Conestoga College.

By supporting Kawenniio, the immersion school, Conestoga can help direct funds right into the hands of people who are doing the work.

“It’s almost like the antidote to what colonization has done to Indigenous Peoples,” said Boissoneau.

According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, more than 150,000 children were taken from their families to attend Indian Residential Schools. Many of which never returned.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) characterized this intent as cultural genocide.

More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada and were a deliberate attempt to destroy Indigenous communities and ways of life. Many of them suffered from physical and sexual abuse, were punished for speaking their own language, and had substandard quality of education.

For Jay Soule, the opportunity to work with Conestoga College and help others recognize the realities of Canada’s past is one he was excited about.

“For me, this is a great opportunity as an artist to go in and disrupt and create great conversation,” said Soule. “But the best part about of it is to do it in collaboration with other Indigenous people.”

Soule goes on to explain that although he is happy to be a part of this fundraiser, he believes that more is needed to be done by TRC to reverse the damaging effects that have been placed upon First Nation Peoples. “Truth before Reconciliation because they have to start first with the truth,” said Soule.

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