I find myself reflecting often on what I continue to learn regarding the atrocities committed against Indigenous people and the horrific legacy of residential schools. The magnitude and prevalence of ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves at residential school sites in BC and across Canada has made me feel many things: shock, anger, and profound sadness. However, I have also felt and witnessed the immense strength of the Indigenous people (in particular the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, the Elders, as well as the Stó:lō Elders, families, and leaders in Stó:lō Téméxw), and their innate ability to come together and take care of each other through the most difficult of times.
I admire Indigenous peoples’ willingness to support non-Indigenous people as we begin to unpack the questions and emotions we have surrounding this cultural genocide. While many of us were shocked by the discoveries, the Indigenous community was not — they knew this, but they were not heard. The selflessness and kindness demonstrated by Indigenous people despite non-Indigenous peoples’ ignorance and silence is awe-inspiring. I believe if we all emulated this level of kindness and consideration, we would be a better community.
This September 30, on Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we acknowledge the painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools. This acknowledgement is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
Many brave people have shared their experiences: what they saw, heard, and witnessed in residential schools for many decades and generations. This is a time to honour and listen to the stories of survivors and their families. It is also a time to discuss the impact of treaties, land claims, and unjust laws in Canada. I encourage you to:
- Wear orange — a shirt, a pin, or a ribbon — and be willing to talk about why you are wearing it.
- Learn about the history of the Indigenous people where you live and work.
- Build your understanding of the residential school system.
- Self-reflect and acknowledge your privileges.
- Recognize your responsibility.
- Take the many opportunities to watch, learn, and grow available at UFV including these events.
There are more Indigenous students, faculty, and staff than ever at UFV. It is crucial we work to ensure the experiences of Indigenous students and colleagues are inclusive and respectful. The Indigenous Affairs website has many resources to help you learn about Aboriginal history, values, culture, and language. It is vital we commit to truth and authentic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.
This year on September 30 there is an opportunity to reflect, to learn and to chart our personal course of reconciliation. It is more than one day: each and every day we must continue to remember and learn from the past in order to create a better and more inclusive future.
Dr. Joanne MacLean
President and Vice-Chancellor