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The University of Saskatchewan Plan 2025 recognizes that, “as a community, we have a shared responsibility to honour and join in the journey of reconciliation” and the truth that “residential schooling exploited education as a tool to destroy identity.”
Together, we can come together in the spirit of reconciliation, work toward rebuilding relationships, and move forward in a good way by sharing the truth of the residential school system.
In 2019, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Indigenous Space and Visual Symbols in the Health Sciences Committee began working with Shop USask to coordinate the sale of non-college-specific orange shirts to help the campus community recognize Orange Shirt Day on September 30.
To date — and thanks to widespread interest from individuals and a number of USask colleges and departments placing group orders — orange shirt proceeds totalling nearly $25,000 have been directed toward a fund supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action with a portion of proceeds also being directed toward the artist.
The artwork currently available on these orange shirts was created by local Woodland Cree and Norwegian artist Vanessa Hyggen.
The USask Indigenous Space and Visual Symbols in the Health Sciences Committee is co-chaired by Valerie Arnault-Pelletier (Senior Lead, College of Medicine Indigenous Programming and Initiatives) and Dr. Adam Baxter-Jones, PhD (Interim Associate Provost, Health).
“Some of my favourite childhood memories are of being out on the land, playing with my cousins - being free and unencumbered as childhood should be. This painting represents that feeling of love and safety. The Cree syllabics say kakithaw awâsisak sâkihâwak, meaning every child is loved. The sweetgrass shelters the children and represents not only the teachings of sweetgrass, but also our living culture and medicines, which bring healing and goodness."
— Vanessa Hyggen
Vaness Hyggen is a Woodland Cree and Norwegian painter and bead artist from nemepith sipihk (Sucker River), in Northern Saskatchewan. She is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and currently lives in Saskatoon. She is intersted in utilizing memory, tradition, and themes of nature in her work, in honour of her ancestors and for her personal creative growth.
To learn more about Orange Shirt Day and the Canadian residential school system, please visit the links below or feel free to begin your own research on this tragic period of Canadian history:
For emotional crisis referral services and information on other health supports from the Government of Canada, residential school survivors can call 1-866-925-4419.
The University of Saskatchewan community is encouraged to access support services through Student Affairs and Outreach by calling (306) 966-5757 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hope for Wellness Help Line is also available to Indigenous peoples across Canada 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention. Toll-free at 1-855-242-3310 or available via online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.