On 30 September, people all across Canada will wear orange shirts to remember and honour Indigenous children who were taken from their communities and families to residential schools.
The summer of 2021 was a summer of orange shirts as Indigenous communities across the country shared the truth they have always known: that many of the children who never returned from residential schools remain on the grounds of those institutions in unmarked burial sites.
This Orange Shirt Day is also the first observance of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For settler Christians in particular, this is a time when we can reflect on our role in colonialism and the residential school system and our ongoing responsibility to make reparations.
Representatives from Knox will be attending a small ceremony on the grounds of the former Brandon Indian Residential School that day.
The City of Brandon is organizing events for the week beginning Monday, 20 September, and more information will be available here next week.
We’ve been working to honour the children buried in unmarked graves and cemeteries at the former site here in Brandon.
Knox is the keeper of The Brandon Indian Residential School Mobile Learning Centre, a project of the former Assiniboine Presbytery and community partners. The Learning Centre is a direct response to Call To Action 59 and is used by schools, communities of faith, universities, and community groups, to illuminate the history of the school.
This summer Knox was approved as a partner on a grant application submitted to the Indigenous Agriculture Science Partnerships Program through Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (federal government). Additional partners include Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and the Brandon Research and Development Centre.
In the application we requested funding to support five areas:
1. Access to the site: Improve access for those with permission while controlling access to others – gates, grading the road, road improvements, benches for Elders.
2. Site clean-up and rejuvenation: Remove illegally dumped waste, develop signage to make people aware that this is a sacred site, to commemorate and educate (in multiple languages)
3. Protect the burial sites: Expand the North Hill burial site fence to include grave currently outside the fence, fence the North-East Fields and East Hill burial sites.
4. Identify, manage and plant culturally important plants: Conducted vegetation surveys, map plants, look to increase populations with transplants and management, develop a walking route to act as a medicine teaching tool, identify areas near the burial sites for enhanced plantings to honour the children.
5. Host a cultural feast: Honour of the BIRS survivors and those buried on the site & community consultation. Partner with SVDN for tent rental, transportation, hospitality, support for ceremonial needs, display proposed signage and conduct community consultation during the feast.
The grant for $50k was approved in July. Knox made a commitment to recruit volunteers to assist with the site clean-up/maintenance and raise $5000 for in-kind funding. You can make a donation to Knox, noting that it is for the Brandon Indian Residential School Cemetery Fund. All monies raised will go directly to the project.
Knox will take time during worship on Sunday, 26 September, to honour the children who attended residential schools. You are encouraged to wear an orange shirt that day. If you don’t have one yet, you can purchase a shirt from the Brandon Friendship Centre.
Email a photo of yourself or your family wearing an orange shirt(s) that Sunday to firstname.lastname@example.org . We’ll include it in a collage from Knox that we will send to our Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator, Sara Stratton. The collage may also be shared on UCC social media.
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