Courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press
Since 2013, Sept. 30 has been known as Orange Shirt Day — to honour the children who survived Indian residential schools and to remember those who did not return home.
It is also now the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which asks all Canadians to reflect upon relationships with Indigenous people, remember the harms of the past, and focus on ways to commit to healthy and positive growth throughout all communities today.
Here are six inspiring stories of Manitoba survivors of the residential school, day school, and child welfare systems:
Spirit names are Sky Woman and Northern Lights Woman and she comes from the Bear Clan. She is a Saulteaux woman from Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation who attended Muskowekwan residential school from 1962-71. She is a great-grandmother who believes in faith, belief and kindness. A nationally renowned educator and advocate for residential school survivors across Canada.
An intergenerational and first-generation residential school survivor, and chief of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. She is a well-known advocate for education, economical development, and cultural revitalization for her people and active in advocacy for the Treaty 1 developments at the former Kapyong barracks site in Winnipeg. She recently helped found a food security program at Brokenhead that will support the community’s education, health and wellness, culture and traditional knowledge, land and infrastructure, and economic initiatives.
From Bloodvein First Nation, Fisher attended Assiniboia residential school in Winnipeg from 1969-72. She is a strong advocate for culture and language, working as a cultural adviser at Wa-Say Healing Centre, an organization in downtown Winnipeg that works with residential school survivors. One of these initiatives was spearheading Orange Shirt Day events that honour the experiences of those survivors.
Born in Dog Creek and attended Indian day school in Dauphin. He enlisted in the Canadian military and became a member of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the military police, serving assignments across Canada and abroad (England, Germany, Norway). Now retired, he is a nationally-renowned advocate for Indigenous veterans and won a human rights case against the Canadian Armed Forces for discrimination in 1994.
A survivor of the day school system who spent her early years at Lake Manitoba First Nation. She later became chief of her community, and then grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization — the first female to hold the role. Swan now works with SCO as a senior political adviser and chairwoman of the board for the Southern First Nations Network of Care. A well-known advocate on the issue of child welfare in Indigenous communities, Swan is acting director of Child and Family Services for SCO.
From Tootinaowaziibeeng and a survivor of the “Sixties Scoop,” an initiative where institutions across Canada removed Indigenous children from their families and homes, impacting communities for generations. He was recently featured in a short film directed by Roger Boyer, which shows his journey to speak with his birth uncle about the day he and his siblings were taken from their mother. He is now a speaker on the issue of Indigenous children in care, amid writing a play about his experiences.