Osgoode marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Three Osgoode Indigenous Students' Association Leaders in orange t-shirts for Orange Shirt Day.
OISA leaders Aleah Lavalley-Lewis (left), Sage Hartman and Hannah Johnson.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday, Sept. 30 was marked at Osgoode this week with a special guest lecture by one of Canada’s foremost experts on Anishinaabe Law, along with a fundraising event organized by the Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association (OISA).

On the evening of Sept. 28, Osgoode students gathered in the Junior Commons Room for a bingo and raffle event, raising more than $200 for the Orange Shirt Society. The B.C.-based organization works to raise awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools and to promote Indian Residential School reconciliation. Many of the items donated for the raffle were from Indigenous artists and businesses.

Sage Hartman, OISA’s Director of Cultural and Community Relations, said her work in organizing the event was supported by OISA President Aleah Lavalley-Lewis and OISA Director of Finance and External Affairs Hannah Johnson.

The association’s executive this year is putting a priority on community building, she noted.

“What I’ve noticed,” she said, “is people want to participate and they want to understand but they don’t know how.

“These social events,” she added, “are a way for people to get more involved and give them an opportunity to engage with the day and keep the conversation going. These are hard topics.”

In an event organized by Osgoode’s Office of Indigenous & Reconciliation Initiatives, Elder Fred Kelly, a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming, a community of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3, spoke to a packed room at the Helliwell Centre Sept. 27 about Anishinaabe Laws and how they are practiced today in the country’s bi-juridical legal landscape.

Also know as Kizhebowse Mukwaa (Kind Walking Bear) of the Lynx Clan, Elder Kelly is an Elder in Midewin, the Sacred Law and Medicine Society of the Anishinaabe. As such, he is a Keeper and Practitioner of Sacred Law. He is also the Grand Chief Emeritus of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 and is a survivor of Indian Residential Schools in Kenora, Ont., and Lebret, Sask. He was a member of the Assembly of First Nations team that negotiated the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and continues to advise individual victims on their healing journeys.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – originally and still colloquially known as Orange Shirt Day – is intended to honour the children who never returned home and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. It was made a federal statutory holiday in 2021 in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action number 80. The impact of the residential school system has been recognized as a cultural genocide and continues to this day.