Orange Shirt Day

September 30, 2019  •  1 Comment

I never understood why I never spoke my own language.

Why can't they just teach us?

Why does it feel like spiritual starvation for me?

My grandparents spoke & still speak what feels like this ‘secret language'. 

I never understood why, until I began to surround myself in their circles just to hear my language.

The eager & impatient starving student in me was so worried I was running out of time 

& so very confused why it often felt like I had to beg-pry just to hear our first voices.

I’ve known for years about this country's dark history but still never understood.

Until, a few years ago when elders began to feel comfortable in sharing parts of their survival stories with me.

Then I not only knew why I never spoke my own language

but I now FELT why. 

Awhile ago while photographing an elder from xaxlip, I shared my excitement about learning my language.

He shared how residential school beat his language right out of him

& how he was punished for speaking his language then shamed for not knowing his own language when he got to go home.

I took a deep breathe,

held my heart

and suddenly felt a heaviness

that felt like guilt and regret for sharing my excitement with him.

He saw (I think)

how I immediately felt and told me not to feel bad &

that he was envious and proud of the few younger ones who are taking time to learn. 

It made me think of this spoken word poetry (can’t remember it exactly or where it came from), but it was something like this: 

I speak to my mother in a language she doesn’t understand

because the colonizers now occupy my tongue.

The English language is a sickness & I don't even want to know how many languages have been lost to it. 

 It's been about 10 years off and on learning where and when I can,

there are so many barriers to learning

but incomparable to the unlearning survivors have had to do from those toxic systems. 


łačiƛ - to let go. 

If you never heal from what hurt you, you'll bleed on people who didn't cut you.

Hurting people hurt people. History repeats itself.

Trauma travels through time. 

It's mind blowing that for someone who never went to residential school,

whose parents never went either

but somehow the grandkids of the grandparents who'd gone are feeling the impacts. 

I've heard over & over that we should get over it,

quit hiding behind residential school,

that was way back then.

But for so many the impacts are very much here and now.


Intergenerational trauma,

travels through generations,

in it's many forms and faces of






Begging to be seen behind it's various masks. 


So much strength to carry those heavy stories

that have been handed down and

what courage it takes to stop sharing THAT same story & begin to write your own. 

To break those cycles that have left us broken. 
Leaves us open often in dark places

that lead us to the source.

It's in those dark places that healing waits with the wounds. 

So touch it. 
Feel it. 
Heal it. 

The more you let go. 
The higher you rise. 

For those wounded in dark places, feeling alone. 
For those hiding & holding their wounds. 
For those who think they don't have any wounds. 
For those rewriting their story. 

Sage is down. 
Prayers are up.

September 30th is orange shirt day, a day to remember those we lost in Residential Schools and honour those who’ve survived. 

To the survivors who kept our language & ceremony underground, to those who somehow kept it alive inside themselves, to those who rebelled & secretly held sacred ceremonies in those schools & to those who surrendered - we remember. To those who have the courage to speak & teach our languages, through your fears, even if very slowly, quietly and shyly, I hold my hands up to you with the deepest respect, admiration & gratitude. 

So from not knowing why I never spoke my own language to the amazement that it’s even still here. 


Thankfully some felt that English language wasn't there's. 

It didn't belong in them. 

they wanted it out. 

 I"m naturally drawn to those diving into who they are. 

To those reclaiming their ways & their voices. 

I admire them for making this their priority. 

For knocking through all the barriers 

for not giving up 

for sacrificing every little thing 

for wanting a part of themselves that everyone else was content with giving away. 



Because reality is

one day when all our elders are gone. 

we can either choose to heal what was broken in them

or allow it to break us back open to who we are. 

 It's pretty crazy when you think about it

How our grandparents were once 

 forced into those systems where assimilation was the goal.

To make us like them. 


To today 

where we willingly enter those systems 

to leave our ways

to leave our homes 

to leave our language.  

kind of feels like assimilation by choice. 


Where we praise, admire and look up to those who've left home

to become educated

to have 'made it' financially 

to have really left so far and so long 

that they've never returned back home. 


 Something I myself struggle with my son. 

Wanting him to be educated, but not so educated that he forgets who he is & where he's from. 

because to me

no amount of education can replace 

who we are as First Nations peoples

 or the spiritual practices that have kept us connected to the ocean and to the land.





I"m always drawn to those who live such connections to 

their food

the land

their languages.

because who are we if our languages die? 

because knowing your language is resistance 

so surrender to

hearing it

speaking it

feeling it

because those we lost would want you to

find it. 

learn it

keep it


live it


hupiiʔin huḥtakšiiḥ help us learn 

t̓aaqsčiikukʷap̓in t̓ašii show us the right path 

našuk suqƛap̓in - strengthen our spirit 

hišukʷin ququaaca - lets all speak our language


For those we lost

for those we found 

for those silent ones

for those loud ones 

for those scared to learn 

for those afraid to teach

it's survived for you. 


For you.

To find you 

return you back to the land.


To know your language


to know the land

to know the land 

is to know yourself.


I'm thankful I have friends who know themselves 

who want to go far enough back 

that it will take us all forward. 

#orangeshirtday #firstnations



This is breathtakingly beautiful. I draw so much strength from your words and your resilience.
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