A ceremony led by Indigenous Elders will be held on the University of Guelph’s Johnston Green Sept. 30 to mark Orange Shirt Day and Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Organized by members of U of G’s Indigenous Student Centre, Indigenous Initiatives and the Indigenous Student Society, the event, called Honouring and Healing Together, will recognize residential school survivors and children who never returned home.

It is just one of several events being held at U of G that day. As Sept. 30 is not a statutory holiday in Ontario, students, staff and faculty are encouraged to participate in the campus events to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and supervisors are asked to support these requests where possible. 

Honouring and Healing Together

Dan and Mary Lou Smoke will open the campus-wide ceremony on Johnston Green Sept. 30.

The Johnston Hall ceremony is open to the U of G community. People may drop in from noon to 2 p.m. and are encouraged to wear orange clothing, said Dr. Cara Wehkamp, special adviser to the president on Indigenous initiatives.

“Currently, there is a heightened awareness of the atrocities that occurred at residential schools,” said Wehkamp. “We must use this time to learn about the truths being shared and be active in our efforts towards decolonization and reconciliation on our campus and within our communities.”

The ceremony will begin at noon with words from Elders Dan and Mary Lou Smoke. Mary Lou is Ojibway Nation, from Batchawana, on Lake Superior, and Dan is Seneca Nation from the Six Nations Grand River Territory.

Members of the Indigenous Student Centre will perform drumming throughout the ceremony, and a sacred fire and tobacco offerings will be available.

“This is an important day for not just Indigenous Peoples but all Canadians,” said Paige Saunders, Indigenous Student Society co-chair. “Today is a day to honour our communities and move forward with reconciliation. We need to confront our dark histories as Canadians and honour those who have survived genocide and move forward in a good way towards healing.”

Johnston Tower to be lit in orange

During Truth and Reconciliation Week from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, U of G will light Johnston Tower in orange at night and lower the University Centre flags. Throughout the week, the University will share stories, videos and social posts illustrating how U of G and its members are moving toward truth and reconciliation.

In addition to the event on Johnston Green, the Department of Integrative Biology’s Indigenous Belonging and Connections Committee will hold a ceremony on Sept. 30 for U of G community members outside the Summerlee Science Complex at 10 a.m.

Library book collection

Woman in campus setting with big smile
Cara Wehkamp, special adviser to U of G president on Indigenous initiatives

The committee has also installed a collection of books by Indigenous authors and about Indigenous experiences in the second-floor lounge of the science complex. Scholarly treatments, fiction, graphic novels and other works are available for U of G members to borrow.

U of G’s McLaughlin Library has added a subcategory to its Exploring Indigenous Narratives and Worldviews Collection in recognition of Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Curated by Indigenous Initiatives and the Indigenous Student Centre, the collection includes resources that explore the history of residential schools in Canada.

“We curated this subcategory to share experiences of those impacted by the residential school system and to uplift the stories of survivors, their families and communities,” said Wehkamp.

The collection, which includes novels, memoirs, research texts and scholarly texts, is meant to enable learning and exploration about First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, cultures and world views.

A menu of Indigenous food

U of G’s University Centre Chef’s Hall will prepare a menu of Indigenous food on Sept. 30, consisting of Three Sisters Soup; salmon, sauteed leeks and mushrooms with cider cream; bison and root vegetable stew; wild rice pilaf; sweet potato mash; and bannock.

Also this fall, the School of English and Theatre Studies will hold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reading Challenge. During these online, 40-minute sessions to be held every Monday, U of G members may volunteer to read or just listen and are invited to take part in reflection, conversation and questions.

  • For more information on how the University is moving toward truth and reconciliation, visit Indigenous Initiatives.