EAST CENTRAL — To acknowledge Orange Shirt Day, Cumberland College produced a 22 minute video for community members and classrooms across the region in lieu of being unable to safely hold round dances.
Started in 2013, Orange Shirt Day is held every Sept. 30 as part of a national movement in Canada to honour residential school survivors and the Indigenous children that did not make it home from those schools.
The movement has spread across Canada, with millions of people showing their support by participating in a variety of events.
“For me, why it’s important to recognize Orange Shirt Day is residential schools was a dark chapter in Canadian history, and the impact is still being felt today,” said Sherilyn Coates, developer for the video and student engagement coordinator with Cumberland College.
“There are approximately 80,000 survivors of residential schools still alive today, and the impact is still generational. I think we need to recognize that, and we need to start working on the path of reconciliation of that.”
In Melfort, Nipawin, Tisdale Cumberland College organizes round dances each year in collaboration with local Indigenous elders, and the Cumberland College First Nations and Métis Advisory Council (FNMAC). .
“Unfortunately with Covid-19, this year large gatherings like that were not allowed, so we felt it was still important to recognize Orange Shirt Day.”
As a result, Coates said they came up with the video, collaborating again with local elders and the FNMAC.
“We’re amateur filmmakers who don’t have a lot of experience or a lot of equipment or anything like that,” she said.
“We composed five questions that we asked everybody, ‘Orange Shirt Day, what was the message behind it?’ or ‘Why is it important for communities to recognize it?’ Then we videotaped a number of Elders, some knowledge keepers, some staff, some students, and we videotaped their answers.”
Originally, Coates said she expected it to be only shown to students and staff at Cumberland College. Since then, it has been used in Tisdale Middle and Secondary School, Melfort & Unit Comprehensive Collegiate, and a class in Hudson Bay.
“I’m really happy that the message is getting out here, I’m really happy that people are choosing to participate in this commemoration, I guess you would call it,” Coates said.
“For our students and staff and elders, it took a lot of courage for them to do this video. Again, we’re not actors, we’re not filmmakers, these are armatures that agreed to speak and did a phenomenal job.”
One message she said she would like to get out to the community is that every child matters.
“It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your race is, what language you spoke, or anything like that. Every child matters.”
In peoples day to day lives, Coates said one way to move forward in reconciliation is to educate ourselves, and call out racism when it’s seen.
“I think we need to examine ourselves, our own attitudes, and we need to address those attitudes around racism whether it’s systemic, or personal that we see within our society.”
The video can be found on the Cumberland College’s Facebook page, or at https://www.cumberlandcollege.sk.ca/index.php?id=12&news_id=449.
It has been funded by the New Horizons for Seniors program and the National Indian Brotherhood.
Coates said Cumberland College hopes to resume the annual round dances when it is safe to do so.