Truth and Reconciliation

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The federal government was called upon, in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, to establish a statutory holiday to honour Survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process. 

September 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (National Orange Shirt Day).

On August 30, 2021, Town Council approved that the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake commit to recognizing September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by sharing the stories of residential school survivors, their families, and communities and engaging in meaningful education related to Truth and Reconciliation.

Each year, the Town holds a flag-raising ceremony and reflective walk to encourage Staff to consider the tragic history of residential schools and help to ensure this legacy is not forgotten. Aspects of the ceremony include Indigenous guest speakers, performances, and tributes. 

Details for the 2023 Events are listed in the Media Release

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is committed to reconciliation and ensuring that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Calls to Action

Recent discoveries of remains and unmarked graves across Western Canada have led to increased calls to address the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action.

The Canadian Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008. Its primary purpose is to document the history and impacts of the Canadian Residential School System. Truth and Reconciliation reveals the long and painful history behind Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.

On June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee released its final report that included 94 Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian Reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada was constituted and created by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Commission spent six years travelling across the country to hear the stories of survivors and their families.

All Canadians and all orders of Government have a role to play in Reconciliation. The TRC’s 94 Calls to Action are addressed primarily to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments but also to municipal governments, the corporate sector, and the broader Canadian society. They cover a wide range of government responsibilities, including child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, commemoration, museums and archives, training for public servants, and a number of specific initiatives related to Reconciliation.

History: Indigenous people related to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Joseph Brant

Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea (“two sticks bound together for strength”), Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) war chief, Loyalist, interpreter, statesman (born circa March 1742/43 at Cuyahoga (near Akron, Ohio); died 24 November 1807 at Burlington Bay, ON); brother of Mohawk leader Mary (Molly) Brant. Loyal to Great Britain during and after the American Revolution, he was an influential military captain. Like his sister Mary, he was a powerful diplomat who encouraged Indigenous tribes to share his political loyalties. A Six Nations (See Haudenosaunee) leader, he met significant political figures such as George Washington and King George III on behalf of his people.

This information was sourced from The Canadian Encyclopedia.

John Brant

landscape of nations John Brant

Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks

John Brant (Ahyouwa’ehs) was the son of Joseph Brant. Along with John Norton, he led warriors at the Battle of Queenston Heights along with other engagements. He was a strong advocate for building schools, he was appointed resident superintendent for the Six Nations of the Grand River, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for Haldimand and his mother appointed him as a traditional chief, Tekarihoga.

John Norton

landscape of nations John Norton

Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks

Major John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) was adopted into the Mohawk Nation by Joseph Brant. He led fighters from Six Nations of the Grand River into battles at Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek and Chippawa. His journal chronicles his 1,000 mile journey from Upper Canada to the homelands of his Cherokee father, stories of Haudenosaunee culture and history, and Haudenosaunee involvement in the War of 1812.

Captain Alexander George E. Smith  

Alexander, son of Cayuga chief Alexander George E. Smith Sr., lived on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. He enlisted in the Canadian Militia and became an officer in the 37th (Haldimand Rifles) Regiment which, in the pre-war years, made their journey to Niagara for the annual summer camp. When the First World War began, Alex went overseas with the Second Contingent and fought as a commissioned officer in France with the 20th Battalion. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery on the Somme, and was promoted to Caption, but was sent home in April of 1917. When the Polish Camp opened, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, he was appointed adjutant. Smith was admired by many of the Poles at the camp and for his services, he was named an Officer of the Order of the Black Star. As such, he was one of the most highly decorated Natives officers of the Great War. 

Mary Brant

Mary Brant, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk), Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) leader, Loyalist, diplomat, political activist (generally known as Molly Brant and as Konwatsi'tsiaiénni in the Mohawk language, meaning “someone lends her a flower”) (born circa 1736; died 16 April 1796 in Kingston, ON). Brant was one of the most important Indigenous women in Canadian history. From her influential position as head of a society of Six Nations matrons, she enjoyed a much greater status within the Mohawk nation than her more colourful, younger brother, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Consulted by Indigenous people on matters of importance, she was a powerful ally to the British forces and served as their highly effective intermediary with the Iroquois in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

This information was sourced from The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.

This information was sourced from The Canadian Encyclopedia.

More Resources:

Celebration Of Nations - Niagara’s annual Indigenous arts gathering that celebrates creativity, diversity and resilience
Indigenous Perspectives - A three-part docuseries by the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre intended to help educate about the Indigenous people's history. Topics included are the Indigenous involvement in the War of 1812, Residential Schools and healing as a community.

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