Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
September 14, 2021 Council Meeting – Land Acknowledgement with Mayor Diodati and Jackie Labonte, traditional knowledge keeper, and local member of the Haudenosaunee.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The Government of Canada “responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action # 80 by creating a holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which seeks to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors, their families, and communities, and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Canada’s federal government enacted legislation on June 3rd, 2021, to establish that each year, on September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would be observed. National Truth & Reconciliation Day coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a grassroots movement in recognition of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor.
On September 14, 2021, City Council adopted the following recommendations on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:
- THAT in recognition and support of September 30th, 2021, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended call to action (#80) to establish a national holiday, Council will consider this day as a “floating” paid holiday for all staff for this year;
- AND THAT the City promote education and awareness to all staff, on its website and various social media platforms per call to action #57;
- AND THAT the City lower all flags to half-staff and encourage staff to wear orange on September 30, 2021.
On September 30th, the City of Niagara Falls and our employees will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation through education and reflection, and will participate in Residential School Remembrance through Orange Shirt Day.
To mark the day:
- Council recognized September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and proclaimed a seven day period, beginning Thursday, September 30th, 2021 and ending Thursday, October 7, 2021 as "Residential School Remembrance Week".
- The Every Child Matters Flag will be raised and then lowered to half-staff on September 30th at 9:00am in Rosberg Park (across from City Hall) to recognize Truth and Reconciliation Day, and to commemorate the legacy of the residential school system and the impact it has had on Indigenous communities. The ceremony will start with a Land Acknowledgement and will include a moment of silence. The public is invited to attend.
- The City of Niagara Falls is encouraging everyone to wear orange and observe a moment of silent reflection at 9:15am on September 30th to recognize the history and legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
- We also encourage all staff and residents to take the time to listen and learn from Indigenous elders, leaders, storytellers and community members.
- The Niagara Falls History Museum will virtually present Richard Hill, Indigenous Innovations Specialist at Mohawk College, with a Lesson from Wampum Diplomacy: From the Two Row Wampum until Today on September 30th from 3 – 4 pm. Details, and the link for the event, are listed below.
- The City of Niagara Falls Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee will share information on Indigenous agencies and services in the Niagara Area.
- Education and training will be provided to all City staff on Truth and Reconciliation beginning the week of September 27th, by Mr. Brian Kon, Senator for the Niagara Regional Metis Council, and Fire Keeper within the Indigenous Community.
- The Falls will be illuminated in orange commencing at 6:30pm, and repeating at each half hour for 15 minutes, up to and including 11:30pm to recognize and commemorate the legacy of the residential school system and the impact it has had on Indigenous communities.
Truth and Reconciliation Resources
Residential School Recognition
September 30th to October 7th 2021 - Residential School Remembrance Week
At the Council Meeting on July 13th, 2021, the following motion was passed:
- THAT Council proclaim a seven day period, beginning Thursday, September 30th, 2021 and ending Thursday, October 7, 2021 as "Residential School Remembrance Week”.
September 30th - Every Child Matters Orange Shirt Day
September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, a time where Canadians across the country will be wearing orange to raise awareness of the tragic legacy of residential schools, and to honour the thousands of survivors.
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a residential school survivor. At the age of 6, Phyllis went to the St. Joseph Mission Indian Residential School wearing the bright-orange shirt bought by her grandmother. She said she felt "bright and exciting", just like her shirt. But on the first day of school, her new shirt was forcibly taken from her, along with her dignity. This story is one of the many examples of harm that was inflicted upon the self-esteem and well-being of children who were forced to attend residential schools. Today, we acknowledge the denial of the rights and the wrongdoings of the past, and the present-day impacts across generations, including the trauma carried by survivors and their families.
Learning about the impacts that it has had on generations of Indigenous families, languages and cultures, lies at the heart of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples who attended these schools, their families and communities, and all Canadians.
City of Niagara Falls residents are encouraged to come together in a spirit of reconciliation and hope to honour the Indigenous children stolen from their families and forced to attend these residential schools, by wearing the colour orange on September 30.
Learn about this movement, the woman behind it, and her orange shirt story: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/
Opportunities to Donate
The Legacy of Hope Foundation
This foundation is an Indigenous-led charity that works to educate and raise awareness about the history and ongoing impacts of the residential school system. Part of the LHF's goals are to provide needed resources for schools and to prevent the spread of misinformation. Donate to the Legacy of Hope Foundation.
The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund
This fund continues Gord Downie's commitment to improving the lives of First Peoples in Canada. The fund works to build awareness, and education on the true history of Indigenous people in Canada, the history of Residential Schools, and encourages reconciliation through events and programming. Donate to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.
The Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS)
The IRSSS is an organization out of British Columbia that provides essential services to residential school survivors, their families, and those dealing with Intergenerational traumas. Donate to the IRSSS.
Save the Evidence
Save the Evidence is a campaign to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. As a site of conscience, the final goal is to create a fully realized Interpretive Centre that will be the definitive destination for information about the history of Residential Schools in Canada, the experiences of Survivors of the schools, and the impact that the Residential School system has had on our communities. Donate to Save the Evidence.
Residential Schools Awareness & Resources:
A National Residential School Crisis Line has also been set up to provide support to former students. This 24-Hour Crisis Line can be accessed at: 1-866-925-4419.
Events and Resources
Truth and Reconciliation 2 days of teachings – September 29th and 30th
Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre – 796 Buffalo Road, Fort Erie
Pipe ceremony, Pipe Teachings & Story Telling and a Healing Walk to Honour IRS Children
Visit the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre Facebook page for all the details
Niagara Falls History Museum Presentation
Lesson from Wampum Diplomacy: From the Two Row Wampum until Today with Richard Hill
Date: September 30, 2021 Time: 3 – 4 pm, includes Q&A View Zoom Meeting details.
In honor of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we will take a look to our collective past to find inspiration and practices that might help us build constructive relationships with our Indigenous neighbors. The recent discovery of unmarked graves at various Indian Residential Schools shows that we still need to do much to make the TRC Calls to Action a real part of our everyday lives. We will go back in time to understand the principles of the Two Row Wampum and subsequent wampum belts that carry the ways and means to nation-to-nation relationships. Along the way we will also consider how these historic traditions can be employed today to build a healthier future for us all.
Richard Hill is a Tuscarora Citizen of the Haudenosaunee, a Confederation of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations. He has been responsible for recovery of wampum belts from museums and historical societies, uncovering the history they carry, and sharing these teachings so that the lessons of history are not forgotten. Hill has worked for the National Museum of the American Indian, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Six Nations Polytechnic and now is the Indigenous Innovations Specialist at Mohawk College, Hamilton, ON.
Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre - Indigenous History Docuseries
The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre produced a docuseries highlighting Indigenous history in Niagara.
- Part 1 focuses on how life was before contact with settlers and the Indigenous contributions to the War of 1812
- Part 2 looks at the tragedies of the residential school system, the 60's Scoop, and the Millennial Scoop, and their impacts on Indigenous peoples and communities in the present
- Part 3 discusses racism in Canada today and how the community is healing with all the trauma they have experienced
Empathic Traditions - Niagara's Indigenous Legacy
The Niagara Region was a place of awe and wonder for the Indigenous peoples who first walked this land. Their ancestors' footsteps arrived approximately 13,000 years ago as the melting glaciers retreated northward, revealing the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario and the mighty Niagara River while giving genesis to an environment rich with life.
In this exhibition, Empathic Traditions: Niagara's Indigenous Legacy, objects selected from the Indigenous collections of the Niagara Falls History Museum reveal the presence of Indigenous peoples, their art and history in the region, extending back hundreds of generations up to the present day. Vivid imagery of the artifacts combined with interpretive information help us understand what life was like for those who first arrived.
By examining projectile points, stone tools, pottery shards, jewelry, and other ancient creations, as well as historic and contemporary items, we learn about the cultural connections Indigenous peoples developed with nature and their relationships with Europeans. We learn how the necessity of survival required the design of useful tools, how function influenced form, and how form created objects of great beauty. If nature is aesthetically pleasing and inspirational then Niagara Falls must be considered a muse of epic proportion. From the first human encounter with the mighty cataracts, artful interpretation ensued.
Learn more at https://empathictraditions.ca/
City of Niagara Falls Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee Resources
Visit committee page to learn more.
Local Indigenous organization websites
Learn about the different Indigenous organizations in Niagara and check out the programs and services they offer. You can also sign up for their newsletters and attend local events.