A sea of orange shirts gathered on the main streets of Ingersoll last Thursday.
Patricia Marshal, organizer of the March for Truth and Reconciliation, was not exactly sure how many people attended the Sept. 30 th event.
“The march in June was 100 and this is a lot more, so I’d say 200-300, I think,” said Marshal after the return walk to the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum pavilion.
That would qualify as a resounding success for the Ingersoll Indigenous Solidarity and Awareness Network.
“It’s honestly amazing that in such a little town we could come together and do this and ‘turn that street orange,’ because it was – all the way down, the whole street was orange. It was beautiful,” said Marshal, who saw ‘proof of resiliency, and ‘proof that people are willing to work together.’
Leading up to the event Marshal had reached out to the Tillsonburg and Area Optimist Club seeking volunteers and sponsorship to help cover event insurance. That call was answered by the Optimists and others like the United Way.
“We need more members,” said Amanda Cook, who represented the Optimists at the march. “We need more members in the community to support things like this.”
Tillsonburg and Area Optimists provided hand sanitizers Thursday and used their connections to reach out to other community agencies and service clubs in Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and Woodstock.
“Everybody just came together to make this happen from the three areas. It was really a community event because this was the only one in Oxford County.”
Moving forward, Cook said the organizers plan to hold an Ingersoll March for Truth and Reconciliation every year.
“So Optimists will be involved as long as they want Optimists to be involved, that’s for sure.
“Patricia was asked in an interview, ‘Why is this so important? It’s not around here.’ But it is. People don’t realize it is here. They think ‘it doesn’t affect us, we live in Oxford County.’ No, it’s here. There are so many people that are Indigenous and won’t admit they are Indigenous… or don’t know that they’re Indigenous because of things like this that have happened. So I think it’s so important that we educate ourselves.”
Wearing orange shirts started in B.C. in 2013 and has spread across the country. But Cook asks, “How many people really know why they have the orange shirt on? It’s not just about wearing it, it’s knowing why you’re wearing it. So ask somebody, ‘Do you know why you have an orange shirt on?’”
Learning about Orange Shirt Day, or the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is the first step.
“It’s about bringing awareness,” said Cook. “That’s where it starts.”
“That’s all that we need – not a lot of people understand it,” said volunteer Cheryl Mottershead. “You learn about it, now you’re bringing that awareness out just by being here.”
“It’s a start,” said Cook. “If we can make people more aware – the more voices that are going to be out there saying ‘hey, let’s fix this.’ We can’t make it ‘not have happened’ but what can we do moving forward to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? Why is there more Indigenous in the foster care system? It doesn’t matter if you’re in Alberta or here, wherever you are it’s the truth. How many communities, reserves, don’t have running water? Patricia has put so much time into making that presentation over there, all the information, to make people aware of what is going on.”
That is why they had cupcakes available at the pavilion for donations, said Cook. And other vendors on site supporting the Legacy of Hope Foundation.
They had expected a vendor selling orange shirts at the pavilion, but the shirts sold out before the event.
Cook ordered her shirt from Brantford, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Woodland Cultural Centre for its recovery fund.
“At work I said, ‘Ok everybody, who needs a shirt?’ You have to get them early. You have to look for it and you have to get it early.”
“The London N’amerind Friendship Centre and Al Day (executive director), they do shirts there as well,” noted Mottershead.