On Friday, September 30th, members of our community and Akwesasne gathered at Lamoureux Park to recognize Orange Shirt Day and the 2nd annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
The event was co-organized by The Akwesasne Representative & Advocacy Program, Akwesasne Child & Family Services, the Children’s Aid Society of the United Counties of Stormont Dundas & Glengarry, and the City of Cornwall.
Several speakers took the stage to share the history behind Orange Shirt Day and the traumas that residential schools caused indigenous children and their families – traumas that many are still grappling with to this day.
“You’ve heard some stories about children going off to school and just thinking for a moment, that that child was placed in an institution that was supposed to be better for them and they never returned. September 30th is about those children, but it’s also about those who did return, who are now elders in our community,” said Grand Chief Abram Benedict.
Mayor Glen Grant, MP Eric Duncan, and MPP Nolan Quinn also took the stage to say a few words, along with Senator Bernadette Clement, who shared that the plaque on her door on Parliament Hill will not only have French and English on it but will also be the first to include Mohawk.
Three orange “Every Child Matters” benches donated by the Akwesasne Representative & Advocacy Program were unveiled and installed at Lamoureux Park. One bench is near children’s play structure and the other two are closer to the Civic Complex. The benches feature QR codes that direct people to information about the significance of “Every Child Matters”.
After the benches were presented, everyone shared a meal of traditional Haudenosaunee corn soup, fried bread, and strawberry drink. Akwesasne Ratirennenhawi later performed Haudenosaunee social singing as many in the community joined hands and danced together.
Some ways we can continue the conversation and act in reconciliation include donating to indigenous organizations and supporting indigenous businesses, as well as learning more about residential schools and Canada’s colonial history.