In June of this year, the Government of Canada passed legislation to introduce a new federal statutory holiday in response to one of the calls to action (#80) outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. September 30 will mark the first observance of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which, as noted on the Government of Canada website, will provide “an opportunity to recognize and commemorate the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour their survivors, their families and communities.

Although 2021 will mark the first year for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30 has been commemorated as Orange Shirt Day since 2013. As noted on the Orange Shirt Day website, former St. Joseph Mission Residential School student, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, tells the story of how “her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl” when she arrived at the school. Orange Shirt Day is observed each year to provide “an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.”

On September 30, Westbank First Nation (WFN) community members will be hosting a drum circle at the Elders Hall. The event will take place at 2:15 p.m. and is open to everyone, with COVID-19 measures in place, including a 50-attendee maximum. Visit the WFN website for more information about the drum circle and about additional ways to show your support on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Stay tuned to WFN's Facebook page for more information on their newly created nsyilxcən language program, which will be launched on September 30. 

To commemorate the day, bring awareness and education, and honour survivors, Spirit of the Lake Native Boutique will be hosting an outdoor market with Indigenous artisans, crafters, bakers, knowledge keepers, and more, The market runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 30.

Kelowna Museums will be hosting Family Orange Shirt Day from 12 to 4 p.m. on September 30 and October 2 at the Okanagan Heritage Museum, where locals and visitors alike can learn more about syilx culture and the residential school experience in the Okanagan. The organization is also hosting two online sessions, as part of their na̓ʔk̓ʷulamən series:

Starting September 27, those in and around Kelowna can visit the Rotary Centre for the Arts to purchase a special National Day for Truth and Reconciliation orange shirt, designed by the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, with proceeds supporting the Society's social enterprise, Original Born Art.

While the new statutory holiday applies strictly to federally regulated employees, many employers across the country, including Tourism Kelowna, will be closed on September 30 to recognize this important day. We encourage you to reflect on the history of residential schools, to take part in commemorative events in Kelowna or your own community, and to continue learning more about Indigenous communities and supporting reconciliation efforts throughout the year.

Header image artwork: 'Medicine Bear' by Smoker Marchand. Photo by: Westbank First Nation