Alumni Entrepreneur Creates Orange Shirt Day T-shirt to Raise Awareness of Residential Schools
James Hodgson uses his Nish Tees Business to raise Awareness of Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation
With the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation being observed on September 30, Trent University alumnus and Indigenous entrepreneur, James Hodgson ’04 has renewed his annual Orange Shirt Day fundraiser.
For a fourth year, Mr. Hodgson has designed an orange T-shirt, with all sale proceeds going to charity.
Emblazoned with “Every Child Matters,” the design features the Amik (beaver) that represents wisdom in the Anishinaabe Seven Grandfather Teachings.
For Mr. Hodgson, a Sixties Scoop survivor, the key to truth and reconciliation lays with a nation-wide understanding of the systems that create disparity.
“There has been an overwhelming wave of non-Indigenous allies wanting to engage in conversation and learn more about this awful chapter in Canadian history,” acknowledges Hodgson, the owner of Peterborough-based Nish Tees, a custom screen printing and graphic design company he started in 2016.
“But the residential school system and other colonial systems of oppression still have a profound effect on the physical, emotional and mental health of Indigenous people every day of their lives. Non-Indigenous allies should consider [National Truth and Reconciliation Day] an entry point for learning more about the systems of oppression that keep Indigenous peoples impoverished and non-Indigenous Canadians prosperous.”
Mr. Hodgson notes that knowledge and understanding are essential to reaching any form of reconciliation.
“Many allies I have spoken with have said they had no idea that these institutions (residential schools) even existed, but this day is helping them turn a corner on their personal path towards reconciliation. Knowing that these systems existed, and that their successors still exist to this day, is a difficult thing for many to process, but it is born out of premeditated and intentional ignorance within the education system.”
For Mr. Hodgson, reconciliation will lead to better relationships between cultures, and a better relationship with the land.
Imploring Canadians to “listen to the elders of our nations with an open mind and heart,” he urges “an end to the constant and relentless resource extraction on which Canada has been built. Our leaders need to lead us into a better era where indigenous stewardship over lands is given priority over profit.”
In the meantime, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day represent a step in the right direction.
“I can only hope that some day we as Canadians can truly understand the full scope of the impact the residential school system has had on all Canadians.”