Written by Caitlin Jans September 28th, 2023

Truth and Reconciliation Day – September 30th

As some of our readers know, Authors Publish has been based in Canada for the last six years, though I am a dual citizen of  Canada and the United States.

Every year now on September 30th, Canada honors National Truth and Reconciliation Day, as a federal holiday. The day honors the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities.

This designation was only granted two years ago, after ground penetrating radar was used at former Residential School sites (the last school closed in 1996, when I was 11), to discover the remains of Indigenous children. I use the word discover because I could not think of a better word. The fact is Indigenous people have always known the bodies were there, but it was widely unacknowledged by the media and non Indigenous individuals and organizations. After the initial discovery made headline news, additional discoveries have been under-reported.

For those who do not know, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families, and sent to residential schools, where they were not allowed to speak their native languages, among many other abuses. These schools had the explicit goal of erasing Indigenous cultures. This happened in both Canada and the U.S.

As of August 2023, 2,743 confirmed or suspected unmarked graves have been found all over Canada. You can learn more about these sites here.

September 30th is also known as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day was created by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a residential school survivor, and you can learn more about Orange Shirt Day here.

Not all of the provinces have decided to support this decision by the federal government, including the province we are currently based in, Ontario.

This is far from ideal, but reconciliation is not just about the government, but the people who live and work on these territories. People, like me, the editor of Authors Publish, who grew up in Toronto, or Tkaronto, which was this region’s traditional name.

Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 and the Williams Treaties, and is the traditional home and unceded land of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga (Haudenosaunee), the Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ,  Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Mississauga and the Wendake-Nionwentsïo. This information was gathered from the very helpful website native-land.ca.

I have a mixed relationship with land acknowledgements, which is to say that I think it is very important to acknowledge whose land we are living and working on, and that this acknowledgement can be a potential source of disruption, but I also feel like it can come off as rote, as something said without intention or meaning, or follow up.

Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer, and the executive director of the Yellowhead Institute, has written about regretting writing a territorial acknowledgement here, in a meaningful and honest way.

But I think it’s important to have these conversations and to actively work towards learning the truth of what happened, and continues to happen in Canada, and across Turtle Island.

I’m going to end with a few resources and recommendations that I personally found helpful. If you have any questions, corrections, recommendations, or feedback of any kind, I am open and listening and can be reached at caitlinelizabethjans@gmail.com.

Many of the links talk directly about genocide and abuse, as well as other hard to read topics.

Resources about Truth and Reconciliation and Residential Schools

Cultural genocide’: the shameful history of Canada’s residential schools – mapped (This an older link from 2021, but I couldn’t find an updated one)

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

How To Talk To Kids About The National Day For Truth And Reconciliation

Talking to Kids about Residential Schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls for Action

Beyond 94 (a website that monitors progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action)

The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations by Shirley N. Hager and Mawopiyane

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell

Places to Contribute

I really encourage to look into local Indigenous led groups to support, but Canada wide the Indian Residential School Survivor Society is a good starting place, as is Native Women’s Association of Canada, and Indspire.

In Toronto the Anishnawbe Health Foundation is doing important work, as is Indigenous Harm Reduction.

Additional Resources

Telling Our Twisted Histories


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Be a Good Ancestor by Leona Prince, Gabrielle Prince Illustrated By Carla Joseph

Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place edited by Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung

The Gift is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Rae Belcourt

What Is Land Back?

What is Land Back? A Settler FAQ

An Irritable Métis – Chris La Tray’s Substack newsletter


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