National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is today September 30th. It is a federally recognized day but sadly all provinces are not observing it. Many Indigenous People and chiefs have found this quite disrespectful. BC is thankfully recognizing this important day. This day was called for back in 2015 and was listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. This day used to be called “Orange Shirt Day.” My older sister who was adopted (is Tsimshian from a small island off Prince Rupert). She is a survivor of the residential school system and the sixties scoop which went on through the 60’s through the 80’s. Even though she did not go to a residential school, her mother did and the government forced her single mother at 15 to give her up to be adopted. Her mother became an alcoholic from the pain of the abuse she suffered in the residential school and for being permanently separated with her daughter. My sister was raised by white parents who loved her but who did not (and could not) give her the culture, identity and language she deserved and craved. My sister is a true intergenerational survivor. She got to meet her biological mother just before she died (after a long process to find her due to a closed adoption). By this time though they both had lost so much because of the disgusting residential school system and systemic racism in the child protection system in the government. My sister received 25,000$ from the government for the trauma she endured. She lost her Indigenous name, her history and cultural identity and her biological family. Thankfully once she became an adult she did all she could to reconnect to those roots. You can’t put a price on that type of pain. This was not an isolated incident, 20,000 Indigenous children were taken without consent (or forced consent) and adopted out to what the government deemed as civilized white families. Some were even adopted outside of the country. They lost their culture, history, language and family bonds. My younger sister became a social worker and got her masters in social work. She solely works with Indigenous children in family preservation work, in part due to the pain of what happened to her sister.

There are countless stories like this and this day is so vital to help re-educate people about the atrocities of these institutions. When  I went to school we were never taught about the horrors of these schools. The history was whitewashed. These schools were meant to drive the "Indian" out of the child and to stop them from speaking their native tongue and being close to their family to preserve their beautiful culture. They made the children feel dirty for being "Indian."

You can watch a short info clip on these schools of horror from the National Post below:

Indigenous People are not wanting solely performative apologies they want true reconciliation with meaningful action. Many nations want their stolen land restored to them. Catholic Bishops in Canada, who were among several Christian groups (Anglican, Methodist, United and Presbyterian) who ran the schools for the federal government of Canada (who funded them), issued an apology recently for the abuses Indigenous children suffered under them. In these schools children were raped, beat, starved, fed rotten food and vomit and even murdered. They were tortured and some even had medical experiments performed on them. Others had forced sterilizations. They tried to convert them to Christianity and to be more "European" or "Canadian-like." They cut off their hair which is sacred to Indigenous and took off their cultural clothes. They put DDT on their heads and some schools even had electric chairs. They gave each child numbers like cattle and didn’t call them by their names. The mental and physical abuse caused many psychological problems and addiction and left severe intergenerational trauma for families. Many people think these schools were old things of the past but did you know the last residential school closed in 1996? Over 150,000 kids went through the residential school system and thousands never returned home. It wasn’t just cultural genocide it was regular genocide and ethnic cleansing orchestrated by our own government.

The Survivors' Flag (NCTR Canada 2021)

I for one hope there is dialogue between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people and that everyone will take part in a real day of solemn remembrance by wearing an orange shirt and taking time to reflect on the pain of our First Peoples in Canada and the US. If you can go even once in your life go visit a Residential School. I know the first one I visited in Alert Bay gave me shudders much like the first time I walked into a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. We can't just reflect on the atrocities of the past but the current atrocities of the present. For so many years records of the abuses and graves were hidden and only now these unmarked graves are coming into the light. Indigenous Peoples were slaves along with Black People in this country since before Canada was officially founded. They weren’t given the full right to vote until 1960 (unless they wanted to give up their treaty rights and status). Indigenous People suffered genocides, weren't allowed to practice their beliefs and even could not celebrate Potlatch because it was illegal. There is a long history of suffering and it continues to this day.

It is time to get rid of the racist Indian Act, to have running clean water on all reserves and it is time to end systemic racism towards Indigenous peoples in our health care system,  judicial system, on reserve child welfare system and in every aspect of our governmental system in Canada. We must also strive to end environmental racism and to have true equality, because right now many Indigenous people are living below the poverty line and are the most common denominator in our prisons. Many young Indigenous Peoples are committing suicide on and off reserves. 70% of Inuit households are food insecure this is 6 x more than the national average in Canada. Groceries are so expensive in their isolated communities too. Indigenous Peoples are the people most affected by Climate Change in this country. We must recognize that the atrocities that happened to these innocent children happened on unceded stolen land. It is time that we tell the truth and work towards true reconciliation between the Inuit, Metis and First Nations people of Canada. 

We must also talk about and remember all the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIWG) in Canada. We must reflect on why there is such a delay in solving these cases and why police give these cases much less importance than when a white woman disappears or is murdered. There is an endemic of violence in Canada towards Indigenous women where they are treated as less than in our society. They are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. 16% of all female homicides in Canada are Indigenous. I will be thinking of all the mothers, daughters and sisters missing on this day, as well as their families. We must urge our police and governments to protect Indigenous women. 

This day is meant to reflect on the tragic and ongoing legacy of residential schools while reflecting on the 94 calls to action. We must do more to advance the human rights of Indigenous People in Canada. Too many are living like third world citizens in a first world country.

If you haven't watched this film "We Were Children" I invite you to watch it. It is 2.95$ to rent it from the National Film Board of Canada and it is worth every penny. You can watch it HERE

Also I invite you to take a free adult course called Indigenous Canada offered by the University of Alberta HERE.This course is led by Indigenous and is a history course from their perspective not from white Europeans as most history books and courses are. You can watch a video on the course below:

You can also click this link HERE and read about ten ways you can have deeper engagement with Indigenous People in Canada on this important day allowing you to truly self reflect on your connections to Indigenous.

You can also donate one day’s work pay on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This is a movement you can read called One Day’s Pay HERE

Now to tie it back to birds and wildlife. Indigenous People protect 80% of our earth's biodiversity and have an integral connection to the land. Therefore, if we protect Indigenous People we are also protecting the birds, wildlife, land and their habitats. There can be no true reconciliation without a system of land governance that respects Indigenous rights.

Recently, you may have heard the US has declared the Ivory-billed Woodpecker extinct. With climate change dramatically impacting our birds and disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities only more of this will come. This is why it’s vital we stop the clock now and change how we act towards Indigenous People. We are all tied together. Let's not forget it!

In solidarity and support we commemorate all survivors and those who did not survive. We commemorate all of these affected families, including my beloved sister who have suffered trauma. Through all the pain of the past and present we must remember to celebrate Indigenous resilience and joy. We can do so by truly listening to them and amplifying their voices and by supporting Indigenous culture, tradition and understanding that the preservation of ancestral languages is vital for future generations. 

*For anyone reading who was impacted by this support is available through the Hope for Wellness Line toll free at 1-855-242-3310 or at the online chat at both of these lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also call the 24 hour National Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419*

I will leave you with a beautiful Mi'kmaq version of Blackbird sung by Emma Stevens.

Pu’tliskiej – Kime’sk // LYRICS: Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq Kina’masi telayja’timk tel pitawsin eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq Ewlapin nike’ nmiteke tel pkitawsin eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ seya’sin Pu’tliskiej…layja’si ta’n wasatek poqnitpa’qiktuk Pu’tliskiej…layja’si ta’n wasatek poqnitpa’qiktuk Pu’tliskiej wapinintoq Kina’masi telayja’timk tel pitawsin eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin eskimatimu’sipnek nike’ mnja’sin -------------------------------------------------------- Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq Kee-na-ma-see dell-I-jaw-dimk dell-bit-ow-sin ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq ew-la-bin nike’ num-mid-deh-geh dell-bit-ow-sin ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg say-ya-sin Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge, lie-jaw-see don wassa-deg poq-nit-ba’q-ik-tuk Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge, lie-jaw-see don wassa-deg poq-nit-ba’q-ik-tuk Boo-dull-ees-kee-edge wobbin-in-toq Kee-na-ma-see dell-I-jaw-dimk dell-bit-ow-sin ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin ess-gum-mud-dum-oo-sup-neg nike’ mn-jaw-sin


Blackbird - Paul McCartney and John Lennon (English Lyrics)

Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these sunken eyes and learn to see All your life You were only waiting for this moment to be free Blackbird fly, blackbird fly Into the light of the dark black night Blackbird fly, blackbird fly Into the light of the dark black night Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise You were only waiting for this moment to arise You were only waiting for this moment to arise


  1. Thank you Melissa for the information and helpful links. I am so sorry for not only the atrocities of the residential schools but the atrocities inflicted on indigenous people over the past several centuries. It is encouraging that the truth is becoming available and more people will understand what has happened, and the falsehoods in the history that has been taught in schools. So much more to be done. Society changes very slowly, but it does change. I am hopeful and optimistic that this century will be the century for indigenous people.

    1. thank you dear brian for this very kind and compassionate post. I truly appreciate It. I agree with you, even though there is so much resistance to change, change will come no matter if they like it or not. The indigenous peoples in this country are finally reclaiming their legal rights and are resilient and will never go away and the truth will never remain hidden anymore. in the meantime like you say there is so much more to be done. thank you again.

  2. Thank you for your blog post and for the links. Your sister's story is devastating and powerful.
    Thanks to you, I have begun the Indigenous Canada course and am greatly appreciating all that I am learning.
    I look forward to following your blog and Instagram account.

    1. thank you so much for reading this and caring enough to take action by doing that course hope it was eye opening and helpful. blessings


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