TWU honours the resilience of residential school survivors on Orange Shirt Day

Commemorative event led by Patti Victor, Trinity Western University Siya:m

“My biggest desire is that we would walk together as partners. A partnership where you celebrate each other’s successes, and you walk in their journey of sorrow. That to me is the Christian faith.”
— Patti Victor, University Siya:m

“The first step to reconciliation is healing the history and understanding that it’s a shared history. It’s not just an Indigenous history,” says Patti Victor, who is Trinity Western’s first University Siya:m.

Siya:m is a Sto:lo word describing a leader recognized for wisdom, integrity, and knowledge. Victor is Sto:lo and lives in Cheam First Nation, BC. Her passion is to build bridges into the Aboriginal community through education.

“Reconciliation begins by hearing, understanding and acknowledging the history and also acknowledging the impact that it continues to have throughout the generations,” Victor says.

In addition to being the University Siya:m, Victor is also TWU’s Director of the Institute of Indigenous Issues and Perspectives and Chair of the Indigenous Partnership Council.

This semester, Victor is teaching courses on Indigenous worldview, culture, history, and the journey of compassion in reconciliation. As well, she is leading several initiatives to foster greater understanding of Indigenous history and culture on campus.

One of such initiatives is commemorating Orange Shirt Day on September 30.

Remembering the survivors

Orange Shirt Day is a day dedicated to remembering and honouring the survivors of the Indian residential schools system. It is a tradition that started in BC in 2013.

In past years, TWU has honoured this day by hosting a chapel service that is focused on Orange Shirt Day. Victor explains the purpose the event: “It is an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to hear the story, to respond to God’s call to reconciliation, and to consider what reconciliation might look like.”

This year, Victor is planning to host an honour ceremony, to acknowledge the history of Indian residential schools and to talk about stories of hope. The event will also include a time of prayer for residential school survivors, and prayer for healing of generational impact.

TWU and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) produced a report into the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system, along with making 94 calls to action.

Trinity Western had the opportunity to take part in the public hearings that preceded the Commission’s final report. Victor remembers TWU’s involvement, in 2013.

“Rather than having classes on campus, we took busloads of students, staff and faculty to the [TRC] event in Vancouver, so that they could hear the story firsthand.”

Victor points out that the 94 calls to action encourage a nation-wide response. It is not only focused on government action.

“Churches and educational institutions need to look at their own policies. Are they being inviting to Indigenous people? There have been lots of opportunity for churches to begin to journey alongside with local people,” says Victor.

The process for change in society

Victor believes that the calls to action signal how change is going to take place at a nationwide, societal level. Although there was a formal apology from the Canadian government in 2008 for the legacy of residential schools, real change occurs in the everyday lives of Canadians.

“It takes more than a public apology. It takes the day to day,” Victor says. “How are we living? How are we treating people? What policies are in place? It takes communities and individuals to respond.”

In Victor’s work as an educator, she is seeking a better future for our communities.

“The reason that I teach what I teach – that I take the tough questions – is not just for myself, and not just for the students that are before me. It is for my children and my great grandchildren, and for the generations that come.”

Seeking the good of others is part of Indigenous culture.

“That’s part of how we live as Indigenous,” Victor explains. “It’s part of what we value. It’s not just all about right now today. But it’s for our future generations as well.”

Bringing a fuller picture of Indigenous community

Victor is creating change through re-shaping beliefs and mindsets. In particular, she is helping students see that there is more than one side to the story.

“Many young adults know about the residential schools. But they don’t know about the resilience of the people,” she says.

As part of her teaching practice, Victor would often bring in people from the Indigenous community to speak to TWU students. Among her guests were doctors, lawyers, chiefs, or other leaders and professionals.

In doing so, Victor hopes to show another side of the Indigenous community. “I like to bring a fuller picture of who Indigenous people are,” she says.

Victor continues, “Yes there are the statistics we need to work on, to bring people to places of healing and wholeness. But there are pockets of people who are very healthy, who are on the road to leading their communities in a good way, and bringing health and wholeness to their communities as well. I try to bring a balanced picture.”

Leading communities to walk together

Victor helps lead the Indigenous partnership council at TWU. It consists of TWU faculty as well as Indigenous community members. “The desire of the council is to develop partnerships with Sto:lo communities. We have some good partnerships already, yet it takes work and consistency to continue to build on those partnerships,” Victor says.

Partnership is at the core of what Victor hopes to see among Canadians. “My biggest desire is that we would walk together as partners. A partnership where you celebrate each other’s successes, and you walk in their journey of sorrow. That to me is the Christian faith.”

“That is who Christ has called us to be,” she continues. “We’re all made in His image. We’re all on a journey, and we need to journey well together.”

Lets'emo:t is a commitment to walk together with a good heart, a good mind and good intentions. Victor shares, “I believe that is the call of God for each of us, that we do walk with our Indigenous neighbours in a good way, and that is to glorify God.”

Watch Patti Victor speak at TWU's Chapel Livestream  Wednesday, September 30, 11:00-11:30am
Join TWU Chapel Livestream

Attend TWU's Orange Shirt Day Honour Ceremony "Remember and Respond" 
Date: Wednesday, September 30
Time: 3:00-4:00pm
Location: Lawn in front of Reimer Student Centre

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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