September 30, 2021 marks the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada as well as Orange Shirt Day. The latter is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that dates back to the Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC in May 2013. On that day, Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, shared her experience of her first day of school, where she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt, which was taken from her. Her story has become a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations in the Residential School system. Orange Shirt day, and now the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours the Survivors of the Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not.
The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society and explorASIAN Festival are hosted by and situated on the traditional, ancestral, and shared territories of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), the sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations in the city colonially known as Vancouver. The team at VAHMS acknowledges the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples and their lands where we work and thrive. We acknowledge the hundred of years of suffering and the resurgence of the Indigenous peoples of these lands. We believe that no matter where we are from or how much we know about Indigenous history; there are always opportunities to see ourselves allied with Indigenous people, Indigenous Lands, and Indigenous sovereignty. We have the responsibility to recognize and change our bias to start to build equitable relationships based on openness and sincerity, so we can move towards true reconciliation.
The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society’s mission and mandate of promoting inclusion, cultural diversity recognises heritage as the representation of all people and culture and acknowledges the harm that racist actions have inflicted on Indigenous peoples, and minorities. We appreciate the opportunity to support the learning, appreciation, and respect of First Nations communities’ protocols, rich knowledge, and heritage traditions. We are committed to working toward increasing strategies and involvement with indigenous Peoples and cultural groups to generate positive change among all communities.
We want to encourage wearing orange this coming September 30th to honour those who suffered in residential schools and to recognize all who are working to heal and recover the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples.
Leticia Sanchez, President
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society