As part of our commitment to truth and reconciliation, Reeves College is continuing to raise awareness about residential schools, victims, and survivors and making sure that conversations keep happening beyond Orange Shirt Day. We had the privilege of interviewing Mellissa M., a receptionist at our Edmonton City Centre campus whose family has a personal connection to these discussions.
Mellissa shared what truth and reconciliation mean to her in her own words.
"Truth and reconciliation means all of Canada and the rest of the world is now aware of what happened to Indigenous people in Canada during those dark times. Our government is finally admitting and acknowledging all of the children who were taken away from their families and put in residential schools," says Mellissa.
This past Orange Shirt Day, Mellissa was proud to wear her own traditional clothing for a day of truth and reconciliation at Reeves College.
Mellissa is proudly of Inuit descent. She enjoys eating traditional food like seal, arctic char, Cariboo, duck, and goose. In addition, she enjoys listening to traditional drumming and throat singing, which involves two people facing each other who use their throat, belly, and diaphragm to make sound. Despite being raised by her mother with exposure to Inuit traditions, Mellissa wishes that she could also speak Inuktitut.
A fond memory that Mellissa recalls is playing Inuit games. In order to endure the harsh climate of living in the Arctic, the games help people strengthen and develop agility. The high endurance games include knuckle hop, airplane planking, foot racing, and various hopping games.
In the 1950s Mellissa's mother was one of the last generations to be born in an igloo near Gordon Bay around Baffin Island. In hopes of being less isolated and finding more food, Mellissa's grandparents and mother moved across the lands to the hamlet of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, via sled with a dog team.
Mellissa noted that today the estimated population of Nunavut is 36,000, and it is the largest northwestern territory in Canada. In 1999, the Nunavut Act separated Nunavut from the other territories giving the Inuit people an independent government. She also told us that the term Inuit translates to “people.”
Mellissa moved to Alberta in 2012 and still actively practices her culture, and her children embrace their Inuit traditions.
As we know, healing is a process that does not happen overnight. Mellissa opened up about her healing journey, saying:
"I've been attentively listening to the stories that my mother is willing to share about her childhood and residential schools. Even though I wasn't directly affected, my family's experiences had secondary effects on me. All cultures and races deserve to have their truth told, and continuing traditional rituals and practices is the best way to keep it alive."
This year was the first year where the federal government officially recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – coinciding with Orange Shirt Day on September 30th.
"I was highly appreciative of Reeves College for taking part and ordering these beautiful student-designed Orange Shirt Day shirts. I was asked to give a speech before we held a moment of silence for truth and reconciliation on Orange Shirt Day. It was heartwarming to see the college taking time out of their day to support our communities," says Mellissa.
Reeves College strives to create a safe space where people can come have crucial conversations, raise awareness, and work towards healing. Conversation surrounding Orange Shirt Day can continue with allies and supporters of Indigenous peoples of Canada. You can learn more about what we did for Orange Shirt Day here.