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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – Photo Essay

Queen’s community reflects on legacy of residential schools at sacred fire gathering.

Dressed in orange shirts, Queen’s community members gathered amidst the smoke of a sacred fire to reflect on the legacy of Canada’s residential school system, and to honour Indigenous people and communities who have borne the trauma it inflicted. Alongside an important video message from Queen’s Chancellor Murray Sinclair, the Sept. 30 gathering was central to events and learning opportunities that took place across campus in recognition of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Sacred fire being lit.

A sacred fire is lit in preparation for a 90-minute event featuring remarks from Indigenous and university leaders, and a moment of silence for those who survived, and for those lost to, Canada’s residential school system.

COVID-19 safety signage on site at the sacred fire.

The on-campus gathering took place on Agnes Benidickson Field to allow for ample space for physical distancing. COVID-19 safety protocols meant in-person attendance was limited, however an online livestream of the event ensured everyone could take part.

Knowledge Keepr and Cultural advisor Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator).

Knowledge Keeper and Cultural Advisor Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator) opens the sacred fire gathering with Indigenous words of welcome for those in attendance and those watching online.

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation)

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), spoke of the importance of a new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Throughout the month, the office she leads highlighted events, learning opportunities, and campus resources through which the Queen’s community could engage and learn about Indigenous history and experiences.

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Rahswahérha (Mark Green)

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Rahswahérha (Mark Green) discusses the generational effects of residential schools on Indigenous families and communities and speaks candidly of his own family’s connection to the system. In March 2020, he became the university’s first Indigenous Provost.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane offers words of remembrance and respect and underscored the university’s steadfast commitment to Indigenization and reconciliation.

Elder-in-Residence Wendy Phillips.

Elder-in-Residence Wendy Phillips leads a moment of reflection. Small handfuls of ceremonial tobacco were distributed among the guests, who were guided to hold the leaves in their left palms while contemplating truth and reconciliation.

Queen's sacred fire gathering to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Despite physically-distanced seating and standing room, the mass of orange shirts still shone in vivid solidarity against a backdrop of trees and limestone. The university provided over 4,000 orange shirts and 10,000 commemorative wall decals to employees and students in lead up to Sept. 30. In return, recipients were asked to sign a commitment to ongoing learning and engagement in truth and reconciliation work. A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of the shirts and decals will go toward supporting the Save the Evidence campaign and the Orange Shirt Society.