“I was taught when you make a braid, you do it with love. It gives strength, and the closer it is to the land, the more centered you are as an individual.”
But what happens when that tie is severed?
What happens when children are separated from their homes, families, cultures, and communities?
Humber grad Marissa Groulx wants you to think about those questions this year on Orange Shirt Day.
Held every year on September 30th, Orange Shirt Day encourages Canadians to listen, learn, and remember those impacted by the Residential School System.
This year, Humber College’s Indigenous Education and Engagement department ordered orange shirts for staff and faculty to show their support, all emblazoned with Groulx’s design.
“When you do your research about the Indigenous youth who attended Residential Schools, there are some things that they all experienced. People know that there was abuse, but I wanted to think of something different,” said Groulx, who recently graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce – Fashion Management degree program.
“Once they entered the schools, they had their braid cut.”
Groulx, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, learned at a young age that the braid holds memories and gives an individual strength.
“They wanted to kill the Indian in the child, and that was part of it,” she said
“The braid in my design helps recognize every child and their strength to move forward, heal, and create stronger relationships.”
‘The more we know, the stronger we stand’
Humber College has launched Truth and Reconciliation cultural awareness training for employees, based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.
The training is a response to Call to Action #62 which calls upon federal, provincial and territorial governments and institutions to develop and implement curriculum and learning resources to reflect Indigenous peoples’ history and contributions to Canada.
“We’ve made cultural education and training a requirement,” said Jason Seright, dean of Indigenous Education and Engagement (IE&E).
“We hope that all of Humber’s staff will complete this training by the end of the Summer 2021. It’s the foundation of what we want to do here. By taking this training, employees will have access to greater resources that teach about Indigenous cultures, histories, and contemporary experiences, where before they may not have had any exposure to that.”
IE&E was a big part of Marissa Groulx’s experience at Humber. She had never lived in a city the size of Toronto and had to adjust to studying at both the North and the Lakeshore campuses.
“IE&E helped me become more comfortable as a student. It was important, especially being in a big city. They helped me find resources and services inside Humber and outside of the college.”
The department and its staff helped Groulx flourish at Humber – and in the months since graduation.
Since graduating, she has launched her website which features original art and handmade beaded jewelry.
Groulx is also featured with fellow Humber graduates Emma Petahtegoose and James Wilson in #WeAreIndigenous, which is part of this year’s Nuit Blanche online exhibition.
Groulx’s Orange Shirt Day design represents the devastating history of Residential Schools, but also the hope she has for the future.
“Awareness of our history is important. The more you know, the stronger we stand to move forward,” she said.
“Knowledge is power.”
You can see more of Groulx’s artwork on Instagram at @Bawaajigan