The recovery of remains of Indigenous children and people on the grounds of former residential schools is both heartbreaking and shameful. The impact of this news is being deeply felt across ANHBC-in our houses, camps and in the communities we belong to. There are no words that feel appropriate for the pain and suffering of affected families and their communities and of residential school survivors broadly, particularly when their lives and futures have been so horrifically altered. And although it isn’t enough, our thoughts and hearts are with all Indigenous communities across Canada.
As an organization that has navigated over 125 years of Canadian history, we recognize the importance of listening, learning and acting as allies to our community members. We remain committed to looking at our own role in the ongoing oppression of Indigenous people, and to change the practices and policies built from colonization that we settlers continue to benefit from today.
Our journey and our responsibility is to ensure that all ANHBC staff are given the tools to bring the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the 260 Calls to Justice outlined in the MMIWG Report as the foundation to build strong and just communities.
Further, we will take institutional steps to ensure that the impact of residential schools is never forgotten. This means that we must listen to survivors and intergenerational survivors with open ears and hearts.
“We want people to hear this story for us. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not something from one of the Stephen King novels. This truly, really happened to 150,000 children.”
Eddie Charlie – Kuper Island Residential School Survivor
What is Truth & Reconciliation?
Truth and Reconciliation is about Canada as a nation and a federal government coming to terms with its treatment of, and ongoing relationship with Indigenous people of this land.
The term has come to describe attempts made by individuals and institutions to raise awareness about colonization and its ongoing effects on Indigenous peoples. Reconciliation also refers to efforts made to address the harms caused by various policies and programs of colonization, such as residential schools. The Truth and and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Actions provide clear directions for how the government of Canada and other institutions and organizations can take accountability and shift their relationship with Indigenous people to a culture of respect, reciprocity and understanding.
What are Residential Schools?
For more than 100 years, up until as recently as 1996, residential schools, were ran by religious institutions as an attempt to assimilate and oppress indigenous people and culture by taking away young indigenous children from their parents.
What We’ve Done and What We’re Doing
Kits House has recognized that all Canadians have a role to play in reconciliation and wanted to create a committee that will formalize a plan for the way this organization can take applicable steps toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.
The purpose of the Kits Neighbourhood House Truth and Reconciliation committee is to advise staff and the board on ways that our organization can further the work of reconciliation by continuing the dialogue and education about Canada’s history with Indigenous people and begin to find ways in the work of Kits house to revitalize the relationship with Indigenous people.
The committee will:
1) Make recommendations regarding how Kits Neighbourhood house can strengthen its relationship with the Indigenous people.
2) Make recommendations on staff educational opportunities that will continue the dialogue regarding Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples.
3) Make recommendations regarding how Kits Neighbourhood house can contribute to public awareness and education regarding reconciliation.
4) Make recommendations on the way programs at Kits Neighbourhood house can incorporate education, culture, etc to revitalize relationships with Indigenous people.
The committee consists of interested Kits House staff, community board members and volunteers.
The recovery of remains of Indigenous children and people on the grounds of former residential schools across Canada is both heartbreaking and shameful.
A shrine was erected at the front of Kits House to show our solidarity with Indigenous peoples across Canada and to honour all of the children who never returned, and for the ones who did come home but were forever impacted.
Orange hearts were left for community members to stop and write messages of support.
The shrine is there to raise awareness of the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples. The impact of residential schools has led to years of generational trauma and action is required to address the wrong doings committed, both in the past and present.
Orange Shirt Day
For Orange Shirt Day 2021, Kits House is working closely with ANHBC central office and neighbourhood houses to build a growing movement in awareness to recognize this day and it’s meaning. We built an online campaign to educate those on the history and importance of Orange Shirt Day, Residential Schools, and provided more resources to learn more.
In addition we partnered with the West 4th BIA and Museum of Vancouver to host an event with a Residential School survivor, handing out orange shirts, hosting and supporting indigenous food truck Mr Bannock, and artist Charlene Johnny.
On Sept 29th, Kits House hosted it’s own recognition event where we had drumming by Karen Thorpe, displayed children’s indigenous story walks, arts and crafts, and resources to learn more about Orange Shirt Day.
Red Dress Day
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House supports Red Dress Day, a national day of awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Red Dress day was inspired the The REDress Project by Metis artist Jaime Black.
In 2020 Kits House recognized and honoured this day by hosting a small outdoor event. We hung a red dress outside the house, and welcomed drummer Karen Thorpe to drum a few traditional songs.
As this event took place during COVID where gatherings had to be kept small, we kept the event to a minimum, however hope to create even more awareness in the coming years with the community so that we may learn more about the loss of thousands of indigenous women and girls due to colonial violence.
In 2021 Kits House, together with the Westside Literacy Task Force and funding from DeCoda Literacy, began building an indigenous themed StoryWalks Library.
The StoryWalks are a fun, educational activity that places a children’s story – literally a book taken apart – along a popular walking route or displayed in the community. While they are all made from children’s books, they are suitable for all ages, Seniors enjoy them too!
Three copies of each book are purchased, then the pages from the book are taken apart, the pages laminated, and then mounted onto corrugated plastic sheets. These “stories” can then be installed along an outdoor path, a fence, or set up indoors as a display.
Currently there are three StoryWalks in the Kits House Library, with plans to create more!
- The Orange Shirt Story,
- The Little Hummingbird,
- Raven’s Feast.
Community members are welcome to “check out” a story from the Kits House StoryWalks Library to use at an event or gathering.
National Indigenous History Month
Community Education Series
In collaboration with Debra Sparrow (Musqueam Elder) Kits House hosted a 4-part series on the history, culture and family life of the Musqueam people. Debra Sparrow shared her knowledge with community members on; the history of Musqueam in Vancouver, Indigenous sites and importance of Totem/House poles and their significance in the Indigenous traditions, and the significance of blanket weaving and the stories represented in the designs of the blankets. This event was open to all members of the community.
All Staff Training Days
In June 2018, Kits House staff spent the day with local Indigenous individuals who shared their experiences of being an Indigenous person in Canada. They shared their knowledge, by taking staff on a walk in our community to highlight locations of significant historical importance. They also educated staff on plants that are indigenous to the Kits area and how those plants have been used by Indigenous people for many years for healing and ceremony.
In June 2019, Kits House staff, volunteers and partner organizations participated in the workshop: Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village with Kathi Camilleri. “During these experiential workshops [Kits House] participants explored their own, personal role in supporting the revival of the values that worked so beautifully in indigenous villages for thousands of years. As a group, we also explored in?depth the effects of Residential Schools and Canada’s Policy of Assimilation on Indigenous communities.” /this was a deeply impactful day and we encourage you to experience it as well.
In November 2019, Kits House was invited as an exhibitor to the Resource Fair for Musqueam Families “Village of Wellness”, organized by the Health Team of Musqueam.
In August 2019, the Family Team of Kits House hosted a family drop in session at Musqueam for the Musqueam families. This drop-in was in collaboration with the Health Nurse at Musqueam and was the first connection made with the families there.
Women’s Memorial March
Kits House supports this March for bringing awareness of the ongoing impact of colonization on Indigenous women and the call to action for justice for Indigenous women. Although Kits Neighbour House was not able to organize formal participation in this event in 2022 due to the pandemic, we wanted to spread awareness of this event and hope to participate in a meaningful way in future years.
Women’s Memorial March
The Women’s Memorial March was first organized by women of the DTES in 1992 in response to the murder of a woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Indigenous women in Vancouver and across Canada face physical, mental and emotional and spiritual violence on a daily basis. This annual march honours the lives of missing and murdered women, and all women’s and gender-diverse peoples’ lives lost in the Downtown Eastside. The Annual Memorial March on February 14th, is an opportunity for community members to come together, grieve the loss of women lost, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.
For more information on Annual Women’s Memorial March visit https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/
Red Dress Day
Red Dress Day is a national day of awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Red Dress day was inspired the The REDress Project by Metis artist Jaime Black. TheREDress Project, which involves the hanging of red dresses in public spaces, began as an art installation by Métis artist Jamie Black at the University of Winnipeg in 2011. The idea of hanging red dresses has since been replicated in communities across Canada to bring awareness of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. The empty red dresses are meant to signify the loss of thousands of Indigenous women and girls over the past 40 years to colonial violence.
For more information on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada visit https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/
National Indigenous People’s Day
The month of June is Indigenous month, while June 21st marks National Indigenous Peoples Day. June 21st also marks the summer solstice – a day in which many Indigenous peoples celebrate due to it being the longest day of the year. National Indigenous People’s Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the culture and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed to raise awareness to protect the social, economical, and political rights of the over 476 million indigenous peoples living in 90 countries across the world.
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day is a day to honour and remember survivors of residential school in Canada. It is a legacy of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion and was created to educate people and promote awareness in Canada about the Indian residential school system and the impact it has on Indigenous peoples and communities for over a century. Orange Shirt Day was born from Phyllis Webstad’s experiences. Phyllis Webstad’s is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). When she was six years old, she entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC in 1973. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt, which she loved dearly for her first day of school. However, the Mission staff quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s uniform. Her story came to symbolize the harms that were perpetuated against Indigenous peoples through the residential school system. Orange Shirt Day is now also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and has been declared a national holiday in Canada to recognize the harms the residential school system perpetuated against Indigenous children, families and communities and as a means to affirm national commitment to truth and reconciliation.
For more information visit the Indian Residential History and Dialogue Center at https://irshdc.ubc.ca/
Indigenous Ally Toolkit – Decoda
10 Ways to be a Genuine Ally to Indigenous Communities – Amnesty International
Ally Bill of Responsibilities – Lynn Gehl
Allyship 101: A Handout for Participants – from a Federation of Community Social Services of BC conference
Being an Ally – from Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers
Building Trust Before Truth: How Non-Indigenous Canadians Become Allies – Indigenous Innovation
10 Common Things Well-Intentioned Allies Do That Are Actually Counterproductive – Medium
Indigenous History Books
21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality
Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality
Indigenous Writes: a guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit issues in Canada
Project of Heart: Illuminating the Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in BC
Speaking Our Truth: a Journey of Reconciliation
Books for Children
Books on Residential Schools
Story Telling Neighbourhood Small Grant Project
The Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG) program is funded by the Vancouver Foundation and administered by community partners, like Kits House, to help build community and strengthen connections right where people live – in their neighbourhoods and communities. The NSG program supports project leaders who have small but powerful ideas to bring people together making neighbourhoods more connected and vibrant. Neighbourhood Small Grants are now available to every community in the province.
This storytelling video was made by a project leader from Lytton.
Talking to Children
In this video Monique Gray Smith shares tips on how to talk to kids about residential schools, as well as how to prepare yourself to have these conversations, whether you are a parent, grand-parent, or educator.