September 30 is Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day to honour residential school Survivors and their families, as well as those children who did not make it home. We can honour those children, adults and families by learning about and reflecting on this horrific and painful history and the impacts that history has today.

Below are some resources to help you open this conversation with children and youth.

Books are a favourite way of mine to begin conversations. My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett is a lovely and gentle book for younger readers. In it, the speaker names the many people, places and moments that bring them joy. After reading the book together, you and your child could make your own list and then explore how it might feel to not be able to do any of those things, as it would have been for the children who were sent to residential schools.

Fatty Legs by Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton is Pokiak-Fenton’s story of attending residential school in the far North when she was eight. It is for readers ages 9 to 12.

My Heart Soars by Chief Dan George and drawings by Helmut Hirnschall has been on my shelf for 31 years. When I received it, there were residential schools still in operation in Canada though I did not know anything about them and there was no conversation about Truth and Reconciliation. Chief Dan George’s words have always been wise and beautiful; when I read them now, with the knowledge of our history, there is a deeper, more profound layer. This would be a book for youth or yourself. There are many poems in it that will generate thoughtful and reflective conversation. I’ve included one at the bottom of this list.

This video of Phyllis Webstad explaining her story and the origins of Orange Shirt Day is a great one to share with children of any age.

There are some events around Vancouver to attend on September 30th that you might choose to attend as well.

For older children and youth, Indigenous artist James Harry is giving a talk on his piece for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in collaboration with SOS Children’s Village. More information can be found here.

UBC is hosting an Intergenerational March to Commemorate Orange Shirt Day. For information on this and other activities on the Point Grey UBC Campus, go here.

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler has free admission Friday through Sunday. Events are planned throughout the weekend.

The Carousel Theatre for Young People on Granville Island is presenting Frozen River, nîkwatin sîpiy. This play is appropriate for ages 5 through high school and is on from September 28th until October 11th.

These are just a small number of ideas to reflect on September 30th. Keep your eyes open for other events for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in your community.

“Keep a few embers
from the fire
that used to burn in your village,
some day go back
so all can gather again
and rekindle a new flame,
for a new life in a changed world.”

~ Chief Dan George from My Heart Soars