National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On September 30, the University of Lethbridge (Iniskim) 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.

Reconciliation is the foundation upon which we must rebuild and restore relationships with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and more specifically the people of the Blackfoot Confederacy.  A key step towards meaningful reconciliation starts with tangible actions that respond to the 94 Calls as set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In response, this year’s Truth and Reconciliation Week will mark the beginning of the Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge on our campus. This year’s challenge is about accountability and truly living up to the commitment to create safe inclusive spaces for all Indigenous students, staff and faculty. We invite you to attend the Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge Launch on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 11:30 a.m. in the UHall Atrium. This will be an opportunity for our community to come together to pledge our personal and collective commitments to Truth and Reconciliation.

True reconciliation comes through 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 of residential schools, and by moving forward in an effort to rebuild and revitalize the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

This week, as we journey towards the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, 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, identify at least one goal towards which you want to take meaningful action to advance reconciliation.

The University has many activities planned throughout the week. A special thanks to Iniskim Indigenous Relations, specifically Iikaisskini Indigenous Services and the campus collaborators, for putting on a full schedule of events for our ULethbridge community to learn more about meaning and intent on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For more information about this week’s events please review the schedule.

This year, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation falls on Saturday, Sept. 30. To provide space and time for reflection, there will be no classes and University offices will be closed on Friday, Sept. 29. The University’s decision to observe this day is consistent with the University’s commitment to indigenization, and specifically the Truth and Reconciliation process.


Dr. Digvir Jayas, OC, PhD, DSc, PEng, PAg, FRSC     Dr. Leroy Little Bear (BASc (BA) ’72, DASc ’04), Iikaisskini (Low Horn)
President & Vice-Chancellor                                       Vice-Provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations


Learn more about the events and activities taking place during Truth and Reconciliation week from September 25-30, 2023.

For the week of September 25-30, 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.


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 25-30, 2023
Smudging Ceremony
10:30 to 11 a.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join Elder Cathy Hunt in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre for a smudge and prayer to open Truth and Reconciliation Week at ULethbridge.

Tea and Talk
11 a.m. to noon | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre

Please join Iikaisskini Indigenous Services and Elder in Residence Cathy Hunt for a Tea and Talk. Light refreshments will be provided

Learn more

Film Screening: The Pass System
2 to 3:30 p.m. | L1060 (Library)

Please join the ULethbridge Library for a film screening of The Pass System, a historical documentary about racial segregation in Canada's history and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Learn more

Truth and Reconciliation Week Sticker, Button and Medicine Bag Making
10 a.m. to noon | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre (W650)

Join Agility in collaboration with Iikaisskini Indigenous Services in making stickers and buttons focused around positive messages, as well as medicine bags.


Indigenous Literature Student Presentations
10:30 to 11:30 a.m. | UHall Atrium

Presented by the English and Indigenous Studies Departments, join the students from INDG 2605/ENGL 2605 as they present and discuss Cree author and Elder Louise Halfe's most recent work, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled.

Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge Launch
11:30 to noon | UHall Atrium

Join President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Digvir Jayas and Vice-Provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations, Dr. Leroy Little Bear, for the Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge Launch.

Orange Shirt Pin Beading Workshop
12:30 to 3:30 p.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre (W650)

Join the ULethbridge Art Gallery and learn how to bead an Orange Shirt pin. All supplies will be provided.

Faculty Discussion of Louise Halfe's Writings
4 to 6 p.m. | Andy's Place (AH100) | Open to Faculty only

Join David Hobbs and David Kootnikoff from the Department of English to discuss selected writings from Cree author and Elder Louise Halfe.

Roots of Growth
2 to 2:30 p.m. | The Grove (weather permitting)

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 were 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 and the community will come together. You are welcome to tie an orange ribbon on a tree.

Author Reading and Book Signing with Louise Halfe, Sky Dancer
3 to 4:30 p.m. | Markin Hall Atrium (M1048)

Join the Parliamentary Poet of Canada, author, social worker and Cree Elder Louise Halfe – Sky Dancer for an author reading and book signing. Everyone is welcome!

The ULethbridge Bookstore will have copies of titles for purchase. Light refreshments will be provided.

Women's Pipe Ceremony
9 to 10 a.m. | Elders Ceremonial Room (A430) - Limited space; Dress protocols in effect.

Please join Elder Cathy Hunt and Indigenous Studies Faculty member Tara Million for a women's pipe ceremony as they welcome Parliamentary Poet, author, social worker and Cree Elder Louise Halfe (Sky Dancer) to Blackfoot Territory. Please note: Dress protocols are in effect (please dress conservatively) and there is limited space.


Indigenous Art Market
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. | UHall Atrium

Join the All My Relations (Nikso'kowaiksi) Indigenous Students' Association for the Indigenous Art Market. Please come support Indigenous artists. Items will be available for purchase.

Orange Shirt group photo
11:30 a.m. to noon | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre (W650)

Please join Iikaisskini Indigenous Services for a group photo for Orange Shirt Day. Wear your Orange Shirt in solidarity and join us at Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre. Orange Shirts are available to purchase at the ULethbridge Bookstore.

Lunch with Iikaisskini Indigenous Services
Noon to 2 p.m. | Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre (W650)

Please join Iikaisskini Indigenous Services in welcoming students back to campus.

Learn more

Closing Keynote: Why Can't You Just Get Over It?
1:30 to 2:30 p.m. | Online Webinar

Please join Dr. Tiffany Prete, Apooyak’ii, for an engaging discussion on the importance of meaningful action toward reconciliation.

Learn more


To recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept. 30)
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. 29. The University’s decision to observe this day is consistent with the University’s commitment to Indigenization, and specifically the Truth and Reconciliation process.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Today, and every day, take some time to learn and reflect on how each of us, as individuals, will address and answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. We all have a role to play in proactively learning Canada's history and working toward meaningful reconciliation.


Blackfoot artist and Indigenous Fine Arts graduate Niitsiitaakii (The Only Woman), Chataya Holy Singer was commissioned in 2021 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.

**A portion of sales will be donated to Iikaisskini Indigenous Services for activities to support reconciliation and Indigenous student initiatives.


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. Santanita Oka, Indigenous Mental Health Outreach Worker, is available for support in Iikaisskini Indigenous Services.
  • 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.