Canada's second-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) takes place tomorrow, Sept. 30. What was previously known as Orange Shirt Day— an Indigenous-led grassroots day of commemoration—was established as a federal statutory holiday in 2021.
"The day honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities," the Government of Canada's website explains. "Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process."
In Whistler, which lies on the unceded territory of the Lil̓wat7úl (Lil’wat) and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nations, there are plenty of ways to learn and reflect on the injustices that led to the creation of a NDTR.
Visting the Squamish L̓il̓wat Cultural Centre’s (SLCC)
Admission to the SLCC is free from Friday, Sept. 30 to Sunday, Oct. 2, with support from CIBC and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. SLCC staff have compiled a full day of programming set to take place Friday, including a curation of self-guided tours, cultural sharing, crafts, exhibitions, artist talks and guests speakers.
"For the Skwxwú7mesh Lilwat7úl Cultural Centre, this is why we exist. Our beams raised up by our Elders. Shared with our voices," SLCC ambassadors explain in a statement posted to the centre's website.
"We are here for a purpose, because our culture was silenced for so long. Because children were stolen, never to learn their language, the love of their family, and never to return home. Their bodies left unmarked in the ground. Our future, our culture, our language left with them. We hear them calling to us each day, and we wake up each morning with our ancestors at our doorsteps beckoning us to travel to Cwítima, commute to Skwikw (known to you as Whistler), continue the work, share the stories, learn the songs, revive and reclaim what was lost."
The SLCC is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is marking NRDT in its own way: flags will be lowered to half-mast at municipal facilities and the Fitzsimmons Bridge lit orange, while municipal hall will be closed for the day. The RMOW will also help support the SLCC's NDTR programming.
“National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a time of reflection, learning and contemplation of our own roles in advancing reconciliation,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton in a release.
“There is a place for each of us in this journey to reconcile our shared past. Explore the deep history of the Shared Territories, take advantage of cultural training and visit the SLCC for an immersive learning experience. Together, let’s support the healing of those impacted by the injustices of the colonial and the residential school systems.”
Honouring through art
Visitors to the SLCC are also likely to notice a new piece of public art the RMOW is unveiling this weekend at Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road, adjacent to the SLCC—so as long as those visitors take a moment to look down.
Designed by artist Tmícwts'a7 Irene Terry Peters, a SLCC Ambassador and graduate of the Indigenous Youth Ambassador program, the new Truth and Reconciliation Crosswalk honours the survivors and intergenerational survivors of the Indian Residential School System.
As the RMOW explained in the release, the orange crosswalk features seven white feathers to represent the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility and Wisdom.
“The crosswalk is a beacon that signals our acknowledgement of the past and our commitment to an equitable shared future," Crompton added. "For those who may not be aware of our past, I hope this installment will pique curiosity and draw them into this shared reconciliation journey with us."