September 30th is Orange Shirt Day – a day for people across Canada to honour the children who survived the Indian Residential Schools – and those that didn’t.
On Thursday, Kw’umut Lelum staff gathered together, wearing our orange shirts, and welcomed a very special guest. Tony Raymond Charlie, an elder from Penelakut, and a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School, came to share his story of abuse, of tragedy, and ultimately, of healing.
Mr. Charlie’s story is not unique – his experience is shared by thousands of Indigenous people across Canada. “Our people don’t talk about this,” he says. “We have intergenerational trauma that affects so many of our families – we continue this cycle and we can’t start to heal until we start to tell our stories.”
For Kw’umut Lelum staff, it was an important reminder of the devastating, far-reaching and ongoing effect of colonization on the families and communities we serve. A reminder that we all need to listen and understand without judgement in order to try and help to heal and support families. As we listened to Mr. Charlie, there were more than a few tears, and we were deeply honoured by his honesty and openness.
Cultural Team Lead Debbie Good was moved to close our circle with a prayer song – “Can someone go get me a drum?”. She offered up the Elder Prayer Song and the Warrior Woman song in gratitude to Mr. Charlie’s bravery for sharing his story, to the creator for strength and wisdom, and to her colleagues for their dedication.
We all left our gathering with a renewed sense of purpose, thankful for the opportunity to try and make a difference in our communities and to help create a Canada where Every Child Matters.
For more information about Orange Shirt Day, click here.