This year, I designed the Kahnawake Education Center’s Orange shirts for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th 2022. Although the process started like many other drawings, there was something that shifted along the way. As I thought about symbols and stories staring down at my blank surface, many things passed through my mind.
I thought about what it would feel like to be taken from home.
I thought about what it would feel like if I was unable to see the children in my life as a parent ever again.
I thought about what it would feel like to come home and feeling like a stranger in my own body.
I thought about my grandfather, who if he hadn’t come home from Residential School that I would not exist and nor would my family.
And for a moment, in the midst of feeling everything that comes with our shared trauma, I felt a moment of gratitude.
I thought about all our children wearing this image and how beautiful they are. All of them who are here because of the love and strength in our community. I knew that it was important to weave intention and ceremony into the image that was to unfold.
In this image, we have turtle island as the foundation for all of our unwavering roots to remind us that home is connected to the soil under our feet.
We have our tota moon to remind us that no matter how alone we can feel, both as children and each of us as children at heart, she is always there to guide us through change.
We have Sky Woman, Mother Earth or truly the idea of any parent figure in our lives, holding what seeds and intentions we plan to birth, grow and sow.
Wrapping us together are flowers and other details, reminding us that no matter the environment, as a community we can find space to thrive and blossom.
At the bottom, we have a wumpum to remind our neighbours to their commitment to becoming or continuing as allies.
And the center, we have the handprint for both the children who did not come home and for those that did to remind them that we love them each so dearly.
Maybe it’s just a shirt, but for me it’s medicine and we may not always realize it.
Every child matters reminds us of the importance to make safe spaces for children to grow, to change as they change, to blossom and to feel loved. That’s our collective role as a community and when we wear orange, we validate that commitment to our children so that they never feel unrooted.