Written By, Sikowis
It’s September 30 -- Orange Shirt Day, aka, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is a Canadian statutory holiday. “It was created as an observance in 2013, and is designed to educate people and promote awareness in Canada about the Indian residential school system and the
impact it has had on Indigenous communities for over a century.” (Wikipedia) The use of the orange shirt is attributed to a terrible experience that Phyllis Jack Webstad, has at St. Joseph Mission Residential School
when she was six years old. On her first day there her clothes were taken from her, including a new orange shirt given to her by her grandmother. She never saw that shirt again. The story resonated with thousands and became a symbol for the violence that Indigenous children faced in these internment camps called schools.
Recently, thousands of unmarked graves have been uncovered on the grounds of around 10 residential schools in Canada. There were over 490 residential schools between the United States and Canada. The darkest part of this discovery, the graves that were uncovered were mostly children. The New York Times reported on this last month and while we are thankful for the coverage, it doesn't nearly represent the pain and suffering this is causing in our community. Also, trying to quantify the numbers of graves that have been found is not ever going to tell the truth. The truth is that many children's bodies will never be found as they were hidden or cremated. There were also many children that tried to run home but died of starvation or exposure. And then there are those that died from suicide and addiction because of the pain they could not overcome.
The number is countless.
The US has not even scratched the surface of this massive scar that they created in our people’s minds, hearts and bodies. It hasn't truly recognized the pain and suffering inflicted on children and their families by boarding schools and, not until the recent discoveries of graves in Canada, has this government made a commitment to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But it is still being “discussed” like it’s not a crisis that needs to be attended to immediately. Meanwhile, one school in the US has been searched by locals in Nevada with over 200 bodies found. Meanwhile, tribes lie the Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Nation) just spent six years negotiation the release of 6 children’s bodies into the hands of their people to be reMatriated back to their homelands
Great Plains Action Society has felt this pain firsthand and we are rising to meet the needs of our communities, whom we are already helping through the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives crisis. We have been working to support families directly impacted by these residential schools through meals, community gatherings, and covering ceremonial expenses while continuing all of our other work, including mutual aid, political engagement action, and fighting for our earth. We are dedicated to providing whatever our community needs to grow, survive, and thrive.
On July 15-16, we organized and hosted an event in Sioux City to welcome the return of nine children from Carlisle Indian Boarding School back to the Sicangu Oyate Nation (Rosebud Nation) as they passed through. We hosted a community meal and prayer on the 15th for 400
folks and served traditional foods. There were family members of the children in attendance and we were honored to offer them some support. In the evening the large caravan carrying the children arrived and we lit a fire in a tipi set up with nine seats, toys, and blankets. This event was held at War Eagle Park in Sioux City Iowa, a place that local Natives are taking back. On the 16th, early in the morning, we saw the Caravan off with refreshments, a press conference, and more prayer.
And our work has just begun.