Orange shirt pins aid in the healing process


Lana and Sky Parenteau and Pam Fulton were hard at work making orange t-shirt pins at the Chatham Community Shop. The pins were distributed to mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.

By Pam Wright
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative

Like the children they represent, each orange pin is unique.

A symbol of children who never returned from boarding school, the tiny foam t-shirts serve to honor the memory of missing youth, survivors, and the damage left behind by schools.

Lana Parenteau of Delaware First Nation in Moraviantown and her granddaughter Sky started making the pins last year after the bodies of 215 Indigenous children were found at the Kamloops boarding school.

Kamloops was just the beginning and the Every Child Matters movement quickly gained momentum as more burial sites were discovered. As of May 2022, 4,130 registered children had perished in residential schools in Canada.

Parenteau calls the orange pin effort “Takwihleew.” In the Lenape language, the word means to come together.

In preparation for National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30 – also known as Orange Shirt Day – the pair were part of a group gathered at the Chatham Community Store last week making pins to give away .

“He’s grown a lot this year,” Parenteau said as he cut out shapes and glued on feathers. “Just as everyone is at a different stage in their healing journey, there’s no wrong way to pin.”

Parenteau, who works as an Indigenous peer navigator from Chatham-Kent, knows what she’s talking about. Some of her family members were taken to boarding schools and she herself became part of the Sixties Scoop, cutting her off from her home and her heritage.

Sky Parenteau, a high school student, said raising awareness of the terrible legacy of residential schools is important because “people really need to know what happened.”

Pam Fulton of Walpole Island First Nation said the pins are a way to start the conversation and start healing.

“I pray that everyone who has been found can be identified,” Fulton said. “Many families don’t know what happened to their loved ones.

“I hope people can close their doors. There is a trauma that needs healing.

The idea of ​​making orange t-shirt pins caught on. Lana Parenteau recently led a pin-making workshop with Enbridge employees in Calgary. People are also making it in a retirement home in Montreal and there have been recent requests from New Brunswick as well.

“I hope it will spread everywhere,” said Elder Parenteau. “It’s not to blame anyone – it’s to work together to heal.”

The Chatham-Kent Public Library also did its part to support the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation by donating pin kits at all 11 library branches. A Memorial Walk also took place in Wallaceburg and a full range of activities were undertaken at local schools.

A special gathering was also held at the Ska:Na Family Learning Center on September 30.




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