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Over the past six years, Geraldine Shingoose has shared her truths as a residential school survivor – or warrior as she prefers to be called – in Manitoba classrooms.

As Canada prepares to celebrate the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday, Shingoose, who is affectionately known as Gramma Shingoose, says the desire to hear from survivors has skyrocketed across the country .

“This year, 2021, is a year of truth for us survivors,” Shingoose said in an interview.

When the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced the grim discovery of what are believed to be 215 anonymous graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canadians faced horrific realities that Aboriginal children and youth had to live with while being required to attend schools.

Stories of unmarked cemeteries were featured in a 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, but the events of this summer sparked a national conversation like never before.

The federal government established September 30 as the National Truth and Reconciliation Day, which is a direct response to one of the commission’s calls to action. This day is a statutory holiday for all federal employees and federally regulated workplaces.

Some schools, businesses, and different levels of government across the country also choose to observe the day, also known as Orange Shirt Day.

As non-Indigenous people in Canada find the best way to commemorate and honor survivors and their families, educators and those forced to attend schools offer advice on what can be done by the 30th. September.

Shingoose thinks it is important to listen to the experiences of survivors.

“I ask Canada to see us, hear us and believe us,” she said, echoing the sentiments of Murray Sinclair, who served as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This year, Shingoose suggests that Canadians observe a minute of silence at 2:15 p.m., in reference to the number of graves discovered in Kamloops.

She adds small gestures like displaying an orange shirt in your window can have a powerful impact on survivors.

Shingoose and other survivors embarked on a trip from Winnipeg to Kamloops over the summer. Along the way, they saw demonstrations of solidarity at the windows of homes and businesses.

“It was (was) so beautiful to see. I (was) really touched to see it all,” said Shingoose.

When it comes to sharing the story of residential schools in the classroom, some educators say the topic can and should be brought up early for school-aged children.

In some provinces, the topic was deemed inappropriate for younger students.

Linda Isaac is an educator from Alderville First Nation in Ontario and National Director of Indigenous Education, Equity and Inclusion at Educational Publisher Nelson. She said early childhood education should include the importance of elders in the community, what an Indigenous family can look like, or core values ​​important to Indigenous families.

“If we can educate young children about the importance of family, community and harmony and all of those things that are part of indigenous life and ways of knowing, so that they fully understand the impacts , we’ll have a new generation of people, ”she said.

Charlene Bearhead is Director of Reconciliation at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She has spent her career as an educator and advocate for Indigenous education.

Bearhead said residential school education should take place year round, but teachers can pass on their own calls to action for students to share what they have learned with family, friends or communities. nuns in the days leading up to September 30.

“It’s a day to think. It’s a day to have these conversations.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2021.

This story was produced with financial assistance from the Facebook-Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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