Gaye giinawind minjimendan/We Remember Fundraiser

LJ Turtle Aromatherapy Fundraiser

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters. The government recently passed legislation to make September 30th a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Throughout this year, across Canada, gravesites have been ‘discovered’ on the land where a Residential School once stood or still stands.

For example, the Brandon Indian Residential school in Manitoba was demolished in 2000. I am from Manitoba and in my 20s I lived in Brandon. I accessed this abandoned building in the late 1990s, curious as to what the inside looked like. In 2001, I moved to Guelph, but I did not realize at the time that the building had been torn down and a campground took its place.

There are 104 potential graves with only 78 accountable through cemetery burial record. The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is working with university partners to identify the remains.

These remains were found in 2012, with three burial sites found with numerous unmarked graves. Some of the known unmarked graves now lie beneath the Turtle Crossing Campground near Brandon.

That area was sold by the City of Brandon in 2001. This is extremely painful, disrespectful and further traumatizing to affected family members and the community. This seems like a never-ending struggle to get the government to act. It is very disappointing that we have yet to see the full implementation of the 94 Calls to Action resulting from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Escaping the Indian Agents

This is not my family’s only connection to Residential Schools. On my mother’s side, I am Ojibwa. As the story has been told in our family, when the Indian Agents came to remove my grandmother and her brothers from their home to be taken to a Residential School, the children ran and hid. Gratefully they were not scooped up and sent away. But the assimilation agenda of the government, in collaboration with the church, still took hold on my grandmother, so much so, that the language and culture were not passed down to the next generations.

Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School

In Brantford, the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School still stands. It operated from 1828 to 1970. It served as a ‘boarding school’ for First Nations children from Six Nations, as well as other communities throughout Ontario and Quebec. It functioned as a key weapon in the arsenal used by the church and the government to assimilate First Nations children into European Christian society, and sever the bonds of continuity of language and culture from parent to child.

After closing in 1970, it reopened in 1972 as the Woodland Cultural Centre, a non-profit organization that serves to preserve and promote First Nations culture and heritage.

As one of only a handful of residential school buildings left still standing in Canada, the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School is a physical reminder of the legacy of assimilation imposed upon Indigenous children in Canada and the trauma inflicted on their parents, extended family and community when their children either did not return or returned traumatized.

‘Save the Evidence’ is a campaign to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. As a site of conscience, the final goal is to create a fully realized Interpretive Centre that will be the definitive destination for information about the history of Residential Schools in Canada, the experiences of Survivors of the schools, and the impact that the Residential School system has had on communities.

In 2021, we saw many more horrendous ‘discoveries’ of children’s graves on Residential School properties across Turtle Island. My need to do more increased manifold as did my desire to help bring awareness to the tragic impact colonization has had on Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day is a commemoration of the love between a grandmother and her grandchild. As the story is told,

“When Phyllis Webstad (nee Jack) turned six, she went to the residential school for the first time. On her first day at school, she wore a shiny orange shirt that her Granny had bought for her, but when she got to the school, it was taken away from her and never returned. This is the true story of Phyllis and her orange shirt. It is also the story of Orange Shirt Day.”

Gaye giinawind minjimendan/We Remember Fundraiser 

This summer I applied to run an official fundraiser for the 'Save the Evidence' campaign - and I am very honoured that my application was accepted. I have named the fundraiser: Gaye giinawind minjimendan/We Remember. It runs from September to December 2021.

I am raising funds for this campaign by selling two aromatherapy diffuser products:

• Aromatherapy Diffuser Felted Acorns - please click to read more about the meaning of the acorn.

• Seven Generations Aromatherapy Diffuser Bracelet - please click to read more about the meaning of the beads and design.

As September 30th approaches, I am feeling deeper grief about this largely untold and unacknowledged Canadian history. Please support this campaign by purchasing acorns and/or a Seven Generations bracelet. And please read more about Guelph's colonial history, as researched and presented, by Guelph Museums. 

You may also make a donation directly to the campaign here.

And if you are an ally or Indigenous person and would like to help, I am looking for community organizations to help raise funds. If you have a retail space in or around Guelph and are able to help sell the acorns and/or bracelets in support of this crucial fundraiser, please email me:

My goal is to raise $10K. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.  

About the author:
My name is Lisa Byers. I am of mixed ancestry including Ojibwa, Scottish, and Irish.  I am a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional (CAHP) in Guelph, Ontario. 


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