Students across northwestern Ontario can look forward to a variety of community events tomorrow in honour of the second annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – to celebrate Canada’s shared Indigenous history, culture and traditions.
At the Kenora Catholic District School Board, staff are unveiling a new Orange Shirt Day logo – designed by recent STAHS graduate Kitana Blackhawk.
“I was really glad that I was offered this opportunity. It was like a memorial piece before I left Kenora and my reserve for school. I was so happy to make this design for kids, and anyone really, who wears it in the future,” said Blackhawk.
The new design features a large heart from the bottom of which hangs a pair of mukluks. Inside the heart is the Orange Shirt Day phrase ‘Every Child Matters’.
"I like that it was a student who came up with the design,” said Elder in Residence Terry Skead.
“It hits your heart to know that these students are thinking about this stuff, thinking about those children. These children are missing and may never be identified. It's a great honour that locally we have this as a remembrance, they'll always be remembered," he said.
Blackhawk, who comes from Northwest Angle #33 First Nation, says she drew her inspiration not only from her spirit, but also the local memorial that sprung up in response to the discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
“We put shoes around the roundabout so the children who lost their lives could have the shoes they needed to walk towards the spirit world, the Creator’s end of life,” said Kitana.
“I really loved the movement and now that they’re getting justice, I felt it needed more love. So, I added the heart. It is more of a child’s heart, the ones that were lost in the residential school system.”
The piece was commissioned by Kenora Catholic prior to the end of the school year. Director of Education Nicole Kurtz says the new design is something that means so much more having been created by a former student.
“This was a very important project right from the start. We have so many talented First Nation artists at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and we thought it would be a great way to bring a local perspective to the design. Kitana did a truly amazing job and I know many staff are looking forward to wearing the new logo on September 30th,” she said.
The new logo is being printed on orange shirts and handed out to all KCDSB staff to be worn on Orange Shirt Day, which is now also formally National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
As for Blackhawk she said it’ll be a bit of a surreal moment to see people wearing her design.
“Honestly, it will be nice to see people wearing something I’ve made,” she said. “It’s never happened before. It’ll feel surreal and be very exciting.”
At the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, schools are all hosting their own events and students will be joining in with a number of community events throughout the day.
At Lillian Berg Public School, students will be taking part in the Walk for Wenjack 30-kilometre trek today. Students are encouraged to go as far as they can, and the walk is a fundraiser for residential school survivors through the Downie Wenjack fund and the school’s efforts for the McIntosh Residential School Site Maintenance Fund.
With files submitted by the Kenora Catholic District School Board.