September 30, 2021 marks the very first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day has been created to give Canadians the opportunity to recognize and commemorate the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, which more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend between the 1870s and 1997 (via CTV News).
Orange Shirt Day, also falls on September 30. It is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived residential schools and remembers those who did not.
In the spirit of reconciliation, healing, and solidarity with Indigenous people, Canadians are asked to wear orange or directly support Indigenous organizations.
To help start the conversation about this part of our history, check out our top 5 picks of children’s books, written by Indigenous authors, that celebrate the Indigenous peoples and cultures.
1. Little You by Richard Van Camp
"You are life and breath adored. You are us and so much more…”
Richard Van Camp has partnered with award-winning illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that celebrates the potential of every child.
With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life-and the new little ones on the way.
2. When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith
When We Are Kind celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives.
Celebrated author Monique Gray Smith has written many books on the topics of resilience and reconciliation and communicates an important message through carefully chosen words for readers of all ages.
Beautifully illustrated by artist Nicole Neidhardt, this book encourages children to be kind to others and to themselves.
3. The Girl And The Wolf by Katherena Vermette
While picking berries with her mother, a little girl wanders too far into the woods. When she realizes she is lost, she begins to panic.
A large grey wolf makes a sudden appearance between some distant trees. Using his sense of smell, he determines where she came from and decides to help her.
Through a series of questions from the wolf, the little girl realizes she had the knowledge and skill to navigate herself-she just needed to remember that those abilities were there all along.
4. Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell
In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.
She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world—the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather''s paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.
Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace all around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss -- a loss that Indigenous Peoples have endured for generations because of the residential schools system.
5. Black Bear Red Fox: Colours in Cree by Julie Flett
Black Bear, Red Fox - Colours in Cree is a dual-language board book authored and illustrated by Cree artist Julie Flett. Different animals and plants and their colours are shown in English and then in Cree.
Julie Flett is a Vancouver-base Cree/Metis author, visual artist, and illustrator. Julie creates stories for children that subtly explore the connections among language, culture, and nature.