National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On September 30, the University of Lethbridge recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day provides members of our community time and space to reflect on the multigenerational impacts and traumas of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples.

Territorial Acknowledgement

On September 30, the University of Lethbridge (Iniskim) will recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The journey to Truth and Reconciliation

Over the past year, Canada has taken some major steps forward on the journey towards Truth and Reconciliation. One such step was a historic visit to Vatican City and Pope Francis coming to Canada and addressing the “catastrophic effects of residential school policies” through his formal apology to the survivors and families who lost their loved ones in these institutions.

Reconciliation cannot be successful without first looking at the harsh truths of the residential school system — as painful as that may be — for it is a necessary part of the journey to authentic reconciliation, and eventual healing. We cannot ignore the multi-generational effects of the residential school system that continue to resonate within Indigenous communities.

The University of Lethbridge's commitment

Although this marks a key move towards reconciliation, we must acknowledge that it is only one of many that must occur. The University of Lethbridge (Iniskim) is located on Blackfoot territory, and it is our duty to continue intent to make Indigenization a priority of our campus, it’s programs and policies. To continue “in a good way” as our Elders have taught us, we must continue to hold ourselves and others accountable to this process, and to commit to being a part of the solution. This comes by acknowledging and addressing the wrongs that have been perpetuated by post-secondary institutions throughout our country over many years, by teaching the truths of our country’s dark history, and moving forward by rebuilding and revitalizing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Our commitment is to do the hard work to make tangible, meaningful change now and for future generations. By launching the Iniskim Governance Process, we will provide a guide to ensure this work is conducted through a collaborative approach embedded in inclusion, relationship-building and balance. The Iniskim Governance Process’s advisory circles will be guided by the Awahksaataaksi Council, which will be grounded in Blackfoot values and ways of knowing. This is one example of how we will begin to put in motion our commitment to the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action.

This week, as we journey towards Truth and Reconciliation Day, I encourage everyone to take some time to read and understand the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the UNDRIP declaration from the United Nations. As you read, try and identify one goal towards which you want to work. While that one goal may seem like a small step forward, done collectively it will lead to so much more.

A special thanks to Iikaisskini Indigenous Services and their collaborative partners for putting on a full schedule of events for our University community to learn more about meaning and intent on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

What we can do

For the week of September 26-30, we encourage all to wear orange in honour of the thousands of Survivors of residential schools. The Bookstore is selling orange t-shirts both in-store and online. A portion of the sales will be donated to Iikaisskini Indigenous Services for activities to support reconciliation and Indigenous student initiatives. Thanks to the Orange Shirt Society and Phyllis Webstad for their support of this initiative.

For this Truth and Reconciliation week let us listen to learn and seek to understand as we continue to walk together in a good way on our journey towards reconciliation.

Learn more about the events and activities taking place during Truth and Reconciliation week from September 26-30, 2022.


Mike Mahon, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor
University of Lethbridge

What is Orange Shirt Day?

Orange Shirt Day marks an important part of Canada’s history, but also a pivotal part of its future. Observed on September 30 each year, it marks the day that Indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed into residential school. It was a day to honour the students who didn’t return home.

Orange Shirt Day recognizes an important moment in history and will help determine our journey ahead toward reconciliation. It is a day for healing and remembering; and a day to listen, learn and honour the survivors and the ones who did not make it home.

Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 and was inspired by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor, from the Canoe Creek Indian Band in British Columbia who attended the St. Joseph's Mission residential school, after sharing her story in an awareness campaign. Phyllis' emotional story begins with her first day attending residential school at six years old. She remembers the new orange shirt her grandmother bought her, which was abruptly taken and permanently replaced with a school uniform. Her story highlights loss and assimilation while in residential school and provides the symbolism of resiliency and reaffirmation of importance through the "Every Child Matters" orange t-shirt movement today.

The first step to honouring is acknowledging our past. We need to listen to the stories from our Indigenous knowledge keepers, learn and educate ourselves, and open spaces for conversations to support each other through this emotional time.

Truth and reconciliation starts with truth and leads to intentional meaningful action. Learn about our Indigenous communities. Talk about Indigenous history at home, at school and at work. Help build supportive, inclusive, and equitable spaces where everyone feels they belong. Volunteer and donate to initiatives that elevate the voices of our Indigenous communities. Call out racism and injustices when you see it occurring. 

The most important part of the process is understanding that you will make mistakes. What truly matters is apologizing authentically and making every effort to learn and unlearn, as you do your part to move towards reconciliation and healing.

Get Involved

Schedule of events: September 26-30, 2022
Smudging Ceremony
10:30 to 11 a.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join Elder Francis First Charger in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre for a smudge to start the beginning of Truth and Reconciliation Week at ULethbridge.

Talking Circle
11 a.m. to noon | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join Elders in Residence Francis First Charger and Cathy Hunt for a Talking Circle discussion on "What does Reconciliation mean?". This event will take place in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre. Light refreshments will be provided

Learn more

Face painting and prayer
1 to 4 p.m. | Carolla Calf Robe (Napiakii) Elders and Ceremony Room

Please join Elders in Residence Francis First Charger and Cathy Hunt in the Carolla Calf Robe (Napiakii) Elders and Ceremony Room (A430) for face painting and prayer.

Learn more

Beans film screening and discussion
5:30 to 8 p.m. | BMO Auditorium (SA8002)

In partnership with the Dhillon School of Business and the University Library, Iikaisskini Indigenous Services is hosting a free screening of the film Beans (Canada, 2020), written and directed by Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer. Based on true events, Tracey Deer's debut feature chronicles the 78-day standoff between two Mohawk communities and government forces in 1990 in Quebec. Don McIntyre (Dhillon School of Business) will host a discussion after the film.

Learn to Smudge Workshop
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join Elder Francis First Charger in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre for a session on learning to smudge. The sessions will take place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and again from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.


Orange Shirt group photo
11 to 11:30 a.m. | Science Commons Patio (7th floor)

Please join Iikaisskini Indigenous Services for a group photo for Orange Shirt Day. Wear your Orange Shirt in solidarity and join us on the patio of Science Commons. Orange Shirts are available to purchase at the ULethbridge Bookstore.

Orange button and sticker making
1 to 3 p.m. | Agility Innovation Zone (SA6304)

Please join Iikaisskini Indigenous Services in partnership with Agility for an "Every Child Matters" orange button-making event, as well as "Oki" button and sticker making in the Innovation Zone. All supplies will be provided.

Learn more

Roots of Growth project launch
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. | The Grove

Please join the University of Lethbridge in recognizing the lives lost and survivors of Residential Schools in Southern Alberta. This event is a student-led initiative that aims to bring our community together to heal and reconcile.

Four trees have been planted across campus in honour of the resilience and strength of Indigenous Peoples and all affected by residential schools. This is something that should have been done long ago, because there is no reconciliation without truth. This day is to bring peace and growth in a new direction and to initiate bridging a cultural gap in our community.

Student leads will speak to the project, Elders will share personal stories, and the community will come together.

KAIROS Blanket Exercise
Noon to 2 p.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join the ULethbridge Nursing Students' Association in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre for a KAIROS Blanket Exercise. This event is facilitated by Emily Fox and will feature a discussion with Elder Dorothy Day Chief.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
University of Lethbridge closed

In order to provide space and time for reflection, there will be no classes and University offices will be closed on Sept. 30. The University’s decision to observe this day is consistent with the University’s commitment to Indigenization, and specifically the Truth and Reconciliation process.


Blackfoot artist and Indigenous Art Studio student Chataya Holy Singer was commissioned by the City of Lethbridge and ULethbridge to design a graphic for Orange Shirt Day. The design features First Nation, Métis and Inuit symbolism and can be interpreted in various ways with each symbol conveying its own message.
Join us in wearing your Orange Shirt to show your support for survivors and their families.


Make a donation to the Iikaisskini Student Initiatives Fund, which supports programming for Indigenous ULethbridge students. Give now

Get Support

By honouring Indigenous residential school survivors, their families, and communities on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, some individuals may experience a series of reactions, including renewed trauma, grief, and anger. There are resources available through the University, and within the community for students and employees to access support.  

The following supports are available for Indigenous students and staff:

  • ULethbridge Counselling Department, as an important mental health resource for our students. Wilma Spear Chief is an Indigenous Counsellor in Counselling. 
  • NIHB AB Region’s telephone, which provides free counselling for all Status Indigenous Peoples: 1-800-232-7301.
  • IRS RHSP AB Region’s telephone: 1-888-495-6588. This is a great resource for anyone wishing to access mental health support for anyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by the Indian Residential School system.

**Non-insured health benefits will cover the cost for counselling.

Other community resources include:

Employees can access support through the University’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) managed by Homewood Health. For more information on recovery and coping strategies for dealing with a traumatic event, Homewood Health has put together some suggestions that can be found here. By contacting EFAP, employees can access confidential counselling services, and can be matched to a counsellor with expertise in Indigenous culture and/or the residential school system. 

For those wishing to access support through a more culturally traditional support, and wish to engage with Elders or Knowledge Keepers, they can contact Homewood Health with a self-identified Elder or Knowledge Keeper of their choosing. Homewood Health will provide the employee with an agreement to be completed and signed so that Homewood can arrange for an honorarium to be provided to that Elder or Knowledge Keeper in recognition of the support and wisdom provided. 

For more information, or to book a counselling session, Homewood Health can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phoning 1-800-663-1142.  All calls are completely confidential.