Uphold Truth and Reconciliation

The Path Forward: Reflections from National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023

October 06, 2023
Sisters Amanda Shamantsut (centre) and Marissa Míkw'achi7m Nahanee (right) lead the "Women's Warrior Song" at an event for Orange Shirt Day.

A journey of healing

"Five and six-year-olds should not be comforting each other when no adults care that they are sick and hungry,” says Phyllis Webstad. “These children matter.”

Webstad addressed attendees at the SFU Burnaby campus for the tenth anniversary of Orange Shirt Day, a day inspired by her own history with residential school.

Webstad, who was the third generation of her family to attend residential school, shared her own journey of healing. This journey eventually culminated in the establishment of the Orange Shirt Society to commemorate the residential school experience and support healing for survivors and their families.

In the ten years since Webstad and her fellow founders began Orange Shirt Day, Webstad has become a renowned speaker, author and advocate for truth and reconciliation.

“I believe students are leading the way for reconciliation,” says Webstad. “They’re learning it in school and bringing it home to talk about at the dinner table.”

“When I meet these students, I tell them: I look forward to meeting you later and seeing the change you bring to this country.”

Sharing Indigenous knowledge

This year, SFU observed National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, with multiple events and activities across its three campuses.

At lectures throughout the week, speakers shared a common theme of applying Indigenous historical knowledge and ways of being to address global challenges. SFU was honoured to hear from experts including:

Author and journalist Angela Sterritt (Gitxsan)
Author William Lindsay (Cree-Stoney)
Health worker and residential school survivor Crystal Phillips (Memetkwo from Sts'ailes) and social worker Chas Coutlee (Nlaka’pamux and lower Indian Band)
Composer, producer and singer Russell Wallace (Lil’wat)
Librarian Ashley Edwards (Stó:lō)
Resource and Environmental Management Assistant Professor Cliff Atleo (Tsimshian) and distinguished SFU Professor of Linguistics Marianne Ignace

At the School for International Studies' Andrew Mack Memorial Lecture, Angela Sterritt discusses the transformative power of Indigenous women’s knowledge for improving human security.
At a dialogue hosted by the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, Cliff Atleo invoked a sense of urgency to apply thousands of years of Indigenous wisdom to resolve current challenges like the climate crisis, shares Acting Director Zafar Adeel.

SFU also took part in a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony organized by the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, a longtime partner of SFU Surrey.

SFU community members took part in a drumming procession from Surrey campus to Holland Park.
Chief Harley Chappell of Semiahmoo First Nation addresses the crowd.
Attendees enjoy bannock and other refreshments.
Dancers perform in jingle dress regalia.

Thank you to all the speakers, facilitators and community partners for their contributions to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at SFU.

To learn about reconciliation initiatives at SFU throughout the year, visit https://www.sfu.ca/aboriginalpeoples/sfu-reconciliation.html