Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Orange Shirt Day

Tomorrow is Orange Shirt Day.

In 1960 Phyllis Webstad was a young 6 year old, living on the Dog Creek reserve in northern B.C.  She was excited to be going to school for the first time, and her grandmother had scrimped and saved to buy her a bright orange shirt to wear.  But when she arrived at school, as in all the residential schools apparently, the children were all stripped, bathed, and de-liced.  She never saw her orange shirt again; presumably all the clothes had been burned.

Phyllis was left feeling totally worthless after the indoctrination she experienced at that school, and finally entered therapy at age 27.  She finally spoke publicly about her orange shirt on Sept. 30th, 2013 and the image quickly caught on.  This spring the federal government made Orange Shirt Day a federal holiday.  As I wrote previously, it's intended as a 'Remembrance Day' for the children, with the goal of making Canadians more aware of the lost children as well as the survivors.  

Orange Shirt Day appears to be a uniquely Canadian day, emerging from local initiatives much as 'Juneteenth' did in the U.S.  Today Phyllis has written three children's books telling the 'Orange Shirt' story, and now tours the country promoting understanding of residential schools at today's public schools.  The U.S, has recently announced that it too will attempt to identify all Indian Boarding Schools and to identify all children who died.

Deb Haaland, the new Secretary of the Interior, is herself Laguno Pueblo, the first native American to serve as a Cabinet Secretary.  She was sworn in wearing a beautiful bright ribbon skirt!

It took me awhile to understand how the inter-generational trauma has affected generations of survivors.  It's the simple fact that survivors never experienced growing up in loving families during their own childhood, and thus have no understanding of what it means to be a loving parent.  Just as abuse is passed down the generations because the next generation models their parents, so too is this the case in Indigenous communities.

Phyllis' first book tells the ominous story just through the image on its cover!  It's hard to see this just through the eyes of a six year old, whose exciting first day at school had been turned into a terrifying ordeal, but Phyllis survived after attending that school for only one year.

In the News!

After the publicity surrounding the 215 unmarked graves discovered at the Kamloops School, interest in Orange Shirt Day (officially now the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, has exploded across the country.

All three universities I've been associated with are holding special online events tomorrow.  I plan to attend (by zoom) the lecture at Western on residential schools.  At Guelph where I taught for over 30 years, a 'Nokum's House' will be built in the Arboretum grounds, as a meeting and research space for Indigenous scholars.  'Nokum' is the Ojibway word for grandmother.

Last July nine churches in Calgary had red paint daubed on the doors.  Grace Presbyterian Church decided to retain the red paint on its door rather than quickly moving to clean it off.  Interpreting the paint as an expression of grief rather than vandalism, the church has used this as a catalyst for ongoing discussions and engagement with the local Indigenous community.  They also held a service of lament for the children lost last Sunday.

The church we attend, which is also Presbyterian, has produced an issue of its quarterly newsletter providing several in-depth articles on the church's response.  The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran 9 residential schools, though most were taken over by the federal government in the 1920s.  They have issued a formal apology and taken a number of other steps toward reconciliation.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently issued a formal apology, and promised to raise $30 million to help support survivors of residential schools.  Indigenous groups have been hesitant to welcome this, as the Catholic Church has apologized and promised to raise millions before - but it hasn't happened.  As one leader said, 'we need to see action, not more words'!  

But it may turn out to be a positive step forward.  I expect many Priests are hearing of concern among their parishioners.  If our own minister hadn't mentioned it herself on Sunday, she would have heard from me!

Other programs, mostly online, can be found in several places.

NCTR, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, has a full week-long series of programs targeting schools, but open to the public.

APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples television Network, has a variety of interesting on-line programs available.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation takes you to a government website where you can learn more about everything from Indigenous Languages to Indigenous History in Canada.

On CBC there have been several articles on different aspects of residential schools and reconciliation, as well as expressions of concern over stolen designs for orange shirts.  Buy your shirts (and other mementoes) from the Orange Shirt Society, or from a site that directs its profits there, to be sure you're getting an appropriate shirt.

And don't forget the children.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Bella Kulak and Her Ribbon Skirt

Last December, 10 year old Bella Kulak proudly wore her beautiful ribbon skirt to her school's formal day.  An educational assistant took Bella aside and told her that perhaps she should get a dress more like her (white) classmates.  She was devastated.

Bella (Isabella) is from the Cote First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, but lives and goes to school in nearby Kamsack.  She was proud of her ribbon skirt which was made for her by her aunt.  Ribbon skirts are a symbol of strength, power and womanhood in many First Nations across North America, and for some a symbol of surviving attempted cultural genocide, and often worn for special occasions and ceremonies.

Bella and some of her new collection of ribbon skirts.

Bella's family is not on social media, but her aunt is, and posted about the experience on Facebook.  Soon Bella was receiving ribbon skirts from all over the world, and women were organizing marches, all wearing ribbon skirts, or posting pictures of themselves wearing their ribbon skirts.  When Bella returned to school in January she was escorted by a lot of ribbon skirts - aunts, grandmothers, drummers and the Chief of the Cote First Nation, as well as the principal and vice-principal.  It was the first ever Ribbon Skirt Day at the school.

The school has not only apologized, but has gone further, establishing an Advisory Committee with the Cote First nation, and a bussing service for students who live on the reserve.  They have started inviting First Nation members into the classrooms.  The family, the First Nation and the School have succeeded in turning Bella's experience into a positive step toward reconciliation.

Bella's celebration of her ribbon skirt is a wonderful starting point for Truth and Reconciliation Week here in Canada.  Truth and Reconciliation Week is a five day educational program running from today until Friday, with Orange Shirt Day being the highlight on Thursday.  Anyone can sign on to listen to presentations and discussion - just google Truth and Reconciliation Week.

I'm sure you've all heard the story behind Orange Shirt Day, but if you haven't I'll repeat it on Thursday.  In the wake of 215 unmarked graves being discovered in Kamloops last spring, the federal government made this a federal holiday.  It's not intended as a day off, but as something like Remembrance Day, when we can focus on remembering the children.  It's hoped that it will serve as a catalyst for educational programs in schools.

So whatever else you're doing this week, take a moment on Thursday and remember the children who never came home.  And for a more positive spin on reconciliation, remember Bella Kulak.


P.S. I do have a word on those unidentified flags in the last post.  Thanks to a reader in Tennessee (who grew up in Meaford) and to Patsy, I can tell you that the one on the left is the flag of Grey County with green representing the natural environment with a Trillium, and the blue the water of Georgian Bay with a maple leaf. and the one on the right is the flag of Meaford, with three apples and two sailboats.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Around Town

 With the good weather (until Tuesday!)  I've been enjoying getting out around town.  I don't take as many photos as I used to, but when I see something interesting I do snap a shot.  So here's a selection of recent interesting pictures.

It started to rain on Tuesday afternoon, and rained heavily all day Wed., and right through last night.  We're waterlogged!  The water droplets on our Redbud leaves and window illustrate the downpour.

A few days ago I turned the corner in our cul-de-sac and found this, no fewer than three cement trucks parked at the end.  With the big boom they're filling what will be the concrete foundation of the second last house to be built.

Headed downtown I found these beautiful New England Asters close enough that I could get a nice picture.

And one of the big trees that typically starts to turn early.

Downtown they were holding a sale in support of the woman who runs 'Czech It Out', a store jammed with antiques and collectables.  She was attacked by a dog recently and has had to close the store while she was recovering, so has had no income.

Heading for The Kitchen where the owner has been expecting a baby, I noticed this tiny decorative balcony for the upstairs apartment.  Don't know why I've never noticed it before.  The baby has arrived and all are doing fine.

Across the street this and several other scarecrows decorated the area around the tourist info booth.  The big event is cancelled this year again, but some of the dedicated volunteers decided that a few scarecrows would still be a good idea.

There was quite an offshore breeze that day and the flags at Meaford Hall were out horizontal, blowing in the wind.

I didn't recognize the two lower flags in this photo.  Can anyone help me out?
The sun has just come out and I'm hoping it will start to dry things out soon!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Collingwood Museum

Back in August we also went to Collingwood and decided to stop and see the museum.  We had arranged to meet my cousin for a quick visit out on the pier in Collingwood, but as we left town she sent an urgent message 'No! No! It's next week not this week!'  Well, we were already in the car so we decided to drive to Collingwood anyway, and make an outing of it, which we did.  We did eventually meet her the next week.

The Collingwood Museum is actually the old train station - alas but it was closed that day.  Never-the-less we looked around outside and enjoyed ourselves.  Some interesting things to see.

The old Northern Railway ran north from Toronto through Stayner, Collingwood and Thornbury to Meaford where it ended right down at the harbour.  Most of it is the Georgian Trail today.  I've always thought that Meaford, even the Meaford Museum, totally neglects the railway as part of its history, so I was glad to see the emphasis on the railway here. 

They have three actual boxcars sitting on a siding beside the museum where the original train line was located.  The Northern started life as the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron railway and changed its name after only a few years.  In those early years its nickname was the 'Oats, Straw and Hay' line, for all the farm produce it carried.  Oats was a much more important crop in the days of horses.

The station has the very typical architecture of all railway stations of that era, with a wide overhand with curved supporting arches, to protect passengers and luggage waiting outside.

We were surprised to see the local War Memorial here too, a modern version only 20 years old, unusual for small town Ontario.  It's black granite walls remind me very much of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

There was also an information plaque outside, telling the story of the railway's freight yards, which were the backbone of this line.  Freight (including the oats, straw and hay) moved both directions here, with farm produce from further south being loaded onto boats and grain from the region being loaded to head for Toronto.

The freight yards extended from south of the station right out onto the pier where the freighters could dock; most of the land where the freight yards stood has now been built on.  There was both a water tower and a turntable.  I'm looking forward to returning when it's open to learn more.

I can't leave without pointing out this CORRECT disabled parking spot.  It allows for a ramp to be extended from the vehicle, and a wheelchair to drive off the end safely.  At least 8 feet is required to get it right!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The New Grey Heron Garden Centre

The old Ormsby family garden centre was sold and purchased by a new young couple who have made great progress in renovating the operation.  They've not only fixed up the almost dilapidated buildings, but they've brought in a good range and quality of plants.  Mrs. F.G., who is a very picky shopper at plant nurseries, is very impressed, so you know it must be good.

We stopped in the other day and unusually, I got out to have a look around.  Driving by I always think the weakest point of their renovations is the new sign, the black on brown lettering just doesn't show up except in bright sunlight.  By the way, there's no such bird as a 'Grey Heron', at least around here.

But the display out front is refreshing and full of interesting plants.  Note the new window trim, around all the windows and doors.

Inside there's a large room with trellises, garden furniture and these cacti.  We went through a cactus time with our kids one year, so I always notice these.

Out back there's a good display of both deciduous and coniferous trees and shrubs.

And there's another much tidier up greenhouse of more tender plants, and a few more garden ornaments.

I like both of these, but they'd be a bit over-powering for our tiny garden.  In a short year the new Grey Heron Garden Centre has taken its place as one of the two top plant nurseries that we visit.  If you're into gardening, I recommend it.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Fall Colour is Coming - Already!

 I find it hard to believe, but a few leaves are showing signs of colour already!  It seems early to me, but I guess it's inevitable, nothing like the second week of October, but it's interesting to watch as the process unfolds every year.   

First, let me show you the seagulls gathering in the field behind us.  Usually they're on the far side of the golf course, but these days they're right out back and Mrs. F.G. got a couple of shots.

This shot shows you how close they are, right behind the house.  I think they gather to eat worms, which surface with the heavy dew at this time of year.

This is the single leaf on our White birch out front that reminded me of what's coming.

This big Sugar Maple down near the corner always seems to start turning colour first.

Here's a White Ash not far away that is turning yellow.  I'm sure there will be many more to come.

Meanwhile we had bought a small Tulip Tree seedling, about half this size, intending to plant it in the front lawn.  Kept in a pot over the summer, it's at least doubled in size and it's time to get it in the ground.

The conversation around where to plant it, keeping in mind the electrical line that crosses the lawn, led to this idea.  We're grouping the Tulip out from our White Birch along with some small shrubs to create an 'island'.  This is how far we got oh Saturday.  Our lawn mower guy is just going to shake his head!

The Red Bud in the corner has grown far too large, far too quickly.  We got it just two years ago as a tiny 8" seedling, now it's almost reaching the eavestrough!  We had 2 or 3 Red Buds at our last home and they never got half as large in 10 years, though they were in the shade.  This is going to take some clever pruning.

And does anyone know this vine?  Mrs. F.G. says she knows, because she has it written down somewhere, but she can't find it.  It just puzzles me because I've tried to identify it and so far I can't.  The shape of the leaves is quite distinct, and as you can see it's finally starting to develop tiny flowers.

Friday, September 10, 2021

'Wildflowers of the Roadsides''

I have missed doing my post on the wildflowers of the roadsides (otherwise known as weeds to some dedicated manicurists) this summer.  The main reason is that the un-mowed stretches of roadside I counted on for finding them have been taken over and mowed by people who like to manicure things too much!  I've been left noticing tiny little bits of roadside where there might be a flower or two, and scrolling back through two months of photos to find individual pictures.

The Bird's-foot Trefoil has been in bloom for months, but I noticed this one just yesterday.

Goldenrod is of course the harbinger of fall, and started blooming in early August, but finding a plant I could get close to was a challenge.

Sweet Pea is one of the most beautiful, but again you have to be close to get a good picture.

These bright yellow Sow Thistles were in a narrow boulevard beside a hydro pole.

This tiny False Strawberry popped up right by our front door and then was gone as soon as Mrs. F.G. noticed it.

I found this Chicory in a crack in the pavement down by the harbour.  It's one of our most widespread wildflowers at this time of year.

This Yellow Sweet Clover was growing in a field beside the raspberries Mrs. F,.G. stopped for.

And this Queen Anne's Lace was growing in a narrow two-foot space dividing two parking lots downtown.

The more I think about these tenacious flowers the more I think we have horticultural things turned upside down.  We love the garden flowers even though they take a lot of babying, and weeding to remove any competition, while we far-too-soon despise the 'flowers of the roadside' that bloom for months, and find a way without any care at all, to grow through a crack in the pavement or the gravel of a ditch.  It should be the other way around!     

Here's an example of spots I formerly saw wildflowers of the roadside, all mowed, several times this year.

Then there was also the rain....

We also had a serious storm this week, with lots of rain, though all I had to show for it the next morning were these raindrops.  It started with a loud siren warning in my ear which turned out to be a Tornado Warning!  I checked the radar quickly and read that a major storm front was passing, mostly a little further south.  It turned out that Port Elgin over on Lake Huron got some damaging strong winds, but I'm not sure that anything qualified as a tornado.  We did get lots of rain though.