Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How Hamilton Artists and Arts Organizations are Marking the First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Canada marked its first orange shirt day on September 30, 2013. The day commemorated the new shirt that six-year-old Phyllis (Jack) Webstad received from her grandmother in honour of her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When Phyllis got to school, her clothes were taken away from her- including her brand new orange shirt. It was never returned. 

Started as a grassroots initiative to raise awareness of residential schools and their impact, this year is the first time the day will be marked as a National holiday by the Federal government; the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

There are a number of small, but meaningful steps that can be taken to mark this day, and reflect on the changes needed- both individually and collectively- to further reconciliation in Canada. Artists and arts organizations continue to lead this charge, with many offering special programming or conversations to mark the occasion. 

  • Take a virtual tour of the Woodland Cultural Centre, whose mission is to preserve and promote Indigenous history. The building itself is a former residential school that was one of Canada’s oldest, located just outside of Hamilton. 
  • Take a reflective walk through Hamilton/Cayuga artist Kyle Joedicke’s exploration of his Indigenous heritage through public art. At MERK Snack Bar, note the “Ottawa” painted above an orca whale, symbolizing the strength of family, designed in the Haida style and dedicated to Joedicke’s grandmother. At St. Matthew’s House on Barton, a mural memorializing children lost to the residential school system. Then head over to Concession Pizza for a mural depicting the seven grandfather teachings.
  • Kyle Joedicke will also be hosting a DJ fundraiser at Casbah Lounge on September 30 beginning at 9:30pm with all proceeds going toward the Save the Evidence Campaign at the Woodland Cultural Centre.
  • While the McMaster Museum of Art will be closed for the day, visitors can still experience #HopeandHealingCanada; an outdoor installation in the Museum’s garden by Metis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers. Using almost five-thousand meters of red string, Chambers has created an intricate outdoor web that contemplates themes of connection, reflection and healing in the wake of COVID-19 and unrest around the world. The piece will be on display throughout the fall.
  • The Art Gallery of Hamilton will host a free workshop at 7pm on September 30. Led by Indigenous community members Jordan Carrier, Michael Blashko and Rebecca Hammond, the workshop will combine stories and discussion about the day, and how to follow through on the collective work of reconciliation. The event is available both in-person or online, but registration is required
  • The Westdale Cinema is offering free film programming in conjunction with the National Film Board. At 2:30pm & 7:00pm, they’ll be screening Beans; a film by Mohawk director Tracey Deer that explores the 1990 Oka Crisis at Kanesatake from a young girl’s point of view. At 4:30pm and 9:00pm, they’ll screen We Were Children; which shows the profound impact of the residential school system on two children.

While not Hamilton-specific, there are many other meaningful ways to participate in the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This includes:

  • Tk’emlups te Secwepemc near Kamloops, BC, is inviting people around the world to gather to drum and sing the Secwepemc Honour Song at 5:15pm (EST) in memory of the missing children of residential schools using the hashtag #DrumForTheChildren. 
  • Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Report– published in 2015, this series of documents examines residential schools and its impact on Indigenous communities. Of note are the 94 Calls to Action; concrete changes to implement to further the process of reconciliation.

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