By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Augatnaaq Eccles, a Carleton University student originally from Rankin Inlet, designed a parka for one of her history classes.
It took five days to patch together, but it symbolizes a long history of the way tuberculosis has impacted Inuit communities.
“I have my own family history with tuberculosis sanitoriums, so it really came from a personal place,” she said.
Eccles brought her parka to Parliament Hill Friday morning, where hundreds gathered to mark the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
This year marks the second time the day, often referred to as Orange Shirt Day, has been recognized as a federal holiday.
People gathered in downtown Ottawa in the morning to hear speeches and songs from First Nations groups, followed by a march to LeBreton flats where a ceremony took place in the afternoon.
Eccles said she was honoured to be invited by organizers to share her work.
“I’m very proud to be here, to be able to share this important piece of Inuit history,” she said.
“It’s just been great to be a part of this.”
Although most of the speakers were First Nations, several Inuit gathered on Parliament Hill to take in the ceremonies.
Bruce Kigutaq, who is originally from Arctic Bay, works as a cultural teacher at the Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families, in Ottawa.
Wearing an orange shirt, she said being at Parliament Hill to mark the day was important for her personal healing journey.
“Because of all the stuff that happened in the past, I’m now in a treatment program, because the trauma causes addiction,” Kigutaq said.
“I’m trying to help myself to stop the circle.”
While the purpose of Orange Shirt Day is one of sombre reflection of the lives lost and destroyed by Canada’s residential school system, many came with a sense of hope and with a smile on their face.
Kathy Kettler lives in the Ottawa area but has family roots in Kangiqsualujjuaq. She recently started a new job as chief of staff to federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal.
Kettler said it was a positive day for Inuit, and for how far the movement to memorialize residential schools has come.
“When I first started working on residential schools, I didn’t really know anything about it back in 1999, and then I spent my entire life’s work on this issue,” Kettler said.
“No one’s alone, we’re all here together.”
David Venn is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works for the
NUNATSIAQ NEWS. The LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.