UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, is installing orange banners across the campus in recognition of Orange Shirt Day and in preparation for the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The Okanagan campus is located on the traditional territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The banners were designed in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance with imagery from Syilx artist Billie Kruger, from the Okanagan Indian Band. In 2019, UBC Okanagan pledged to support Indigenous students, culture and scholarship through a public Declaration of Truth and Reconciliation Commitments, of which the campus continues to support and implement, says UBCO Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack.
“September 30 has for several years now been marked as Orange Shirt Day, a day when people are encouraged to wear orange to recognize the impacts of the residential school system,” says Cormack. “This year, Orange Shirt Day carries added significance.”
Orange Shirt Day was spearheaded by Residential School Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who has shared her story widely to bring awareness to the impacts of these schools. And in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called for a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In the wake of the uncovering of the remains of 215 children at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School this spring, and the subsequent investigations and findings of more children’s graves at residential schools across Canada, the federal government established September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.,
Pauline Terbasket, Okanagan Nation Alliance executive director, says the legacy of the Indian Residential School System has had devastating impacts on the Syilx Okanagan Nation that continue to be felt today.
“Our Nations, communities and families are grieving and processing as we walk together towards healing. Indigenous people and allies all have a role to play in this important work,” says Terbasket. “We encourage people to educate, participate and take action as we collectively continue iscmypnwiɬn əc xʷəstustn k’l’ isnxaʔcinəm—walking our learning forward.”
UBC Okanagan was welcomed to Syilx Okanagan Nation territory in 2005 and has a memorandum of understanding with the Okanagan Nation Alliance. In addition to UBC’s Declaration of Truth and Reconciliation commitments, the 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan represents a university-wide response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice.
As the work continues, UBC encourages all members of the community to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, whether through personal reflection, education or by participating in Orange Shirt Day events within the community.
Cormack says UBC is committed to advancing Indigenous human rights through truth and reconciliation.
“UBC’s Okanagan campus has the honour and privilege of being founded and working in close partnership with the Syilx Okanagan Nation,” says Cormack. “We stand in support and grieve with Residential School attendees, survivors and families on September 30 and each day that follows. We must reflect on our past and the importance of our continued work to move forward on our campus’ commitments in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”