Sept. 29, 2023
By Joanne Harris
Saturday, Sept. 30, is Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
An orange sun with orange and black illustrations of an eagle, narwhale and flower over it on a white background. A bear paw illustration with the words "Every Child Matters" inside it is to the left.
It is a day to reflect on the history and legacy of residential schools in this country and in our province.
Newfoundland and Labrador had five residential schools; the legacy of those schools continues to this day. There were four in the Labrador communities of Cartwright, Makkovik, Nain, and Northwest River and one in the Newfoundland community of St. Anthony.
Today, Friday, Sept. 29, five smudging ceremonies and lessons will take place across the St. John’s campus.
9 a.m.: Smudging ceremony and lesson in the Business building atrium
10 a.m.: Smudging ceremony and lesson in the Engineering building lobby
11 a.m.: Smudging ceremony and lesson in the Queen Elizabeth II Library lobby
12 p.m.: Smudging ceremony and lesson outside the Memorial Tower by the University Centre (if it rains, it will take place in The Loft, third floor of the University Centre)
2 p.m.: Smudging ceremony and lesson in the Bruneau Centre lobby, followed by a brief talk about truth and reconciliation
3 p.m.: Campus walk from the Bruneau Centre to Juniper House at 208 Elizabeth Avenue, where there will be an orange hand-printing project and refreshments. Wear orange if you can.
Participation in the smudge ceremony and lesson is voluntary, but we encourage everyone to take the time to observe, listen and learn. Smudging is a First Nations purification ceremony involving the lighting of sacred medicinal plants. Smudging often happens in spaces in which First Nations knowledges are shared.
Through these smudges, we seek to familiarize the Memorial community with the practice and its significance. Smudging is also one of many traditional practices residential schools actively disparaged and disrupted in the effort to assimilate students.
The smudging sites are adjacent to the five resource tables in the various buildings. The resources available include information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, residential schools, smudging and lighting the kullik, as well as orange shirt buttons. The tables also include an engagement opportunity that we encourage everyone to participate in. Space is provided to write down any thoughts, questions or ideas you may have concerning reconciliation and what you as a member of the Memorial community can do to further it.
You can find the full schedule of events and all details here.
We encourage you to explore the following resources to learn more.
Orange Shirt Day
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
TRC Calls to Action
The Canadian Encyclopedia – Residential Schools in Canada
A Long Journey: Residential Schools in Labrador and Newfoundland by Andrea Proctor
Memorial’s Strategic Framework for Indigenization 2021-26
Orange shirts may be purchased at the Memorial University bookstore, UC-2006. Proceeds will be donated to First Light.
Joanne Harris is the Indigenous resource development co-ordinator in the Office of Indigenous Affairs at Memorial. She can be reached at
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