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Art instalment at Oak Bay school sparks larger conversation

‘We too can each share our stories and become a tighter knit community’

A wood heart bearing the image of an orange shirt hangs in each classroom at Monterey Middle School. They’re a gift from Namgis artist Jamin Zuroski, crafted from a piece of a Garry oak that fell in the Oak Bay schoolyard.

Zuroski explained the small gift in a video crafted to help students understand Orange Shirt Day.

Wearing an orange shirt of his own design, with a small square of moose hide pinned on, he opens the video with a brief history of Orange Shirt Day.

Now also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day was started by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad. Then just six, Webstad proudly wore a new orange shirt to her first day of school. It was immediately taken.

Zuroski encouraged viewers to do further research on the subject and to seek out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He urged people to hear the stories of those who want to share because there are so many who simply cannot.

“Through collaboration, trust and care, we too can each share our stories and become a tighter knit community because of it,” Zuroski said.

Feeding off the intergenerational knowledge transfer, Zuroski is drawn to working with youth.

With pieces in about eight schools in the Greater Victoria School District, Zuroski is also a member of the Aboriginal role model program in the Sooke School District.

He encourages all to go to events, be with like-minded people. Events such as those marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, such as the Xe xe Smun’ eem-Victoria Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters Ceremony in Centennial Square from noon to 2:30 p.m., or the Na’tsa’maht Gathering hosted by the Lekwungen Peoples in Colwood at Royal Beach (Metchosin Road at Latoria Boulevard) until 4 p.m. He hopes to attend both.

READ ALSO: Events surrounding National Day for Truth and Reconciliation look to raise awareness

“I do think there is forward movement. There is a care coming to light in a public and institutional realm … that people are saying kind words and wanting to say sorry for those who have done wrong and wanting to build new relationships. I see myself as a community messenger supporter advocate in sharing some facts,” he said.

The video winds down with an exercise to help send good energy, or express desire for change. Zuroski urged people to grab a piece of paper, draw a heart with a T-shirt image and then just write, draw and feel.

“This is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts and our feelings. Putting it down on paper is one really good way to do that,” he said.

It ends with a simple gilakas’la (thank you).

READ MORE: Truth and Reconciliation

Namgis artist Jamin Zuroski talks Orange Shirt Day 2021 and working with teachers and students at Monterey Middle School in Oak Bay. (YouTube)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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