Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day! RRC Polytech is proud to announce we have worked with local artist Peatr Thomas on an original design for Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters in support of the Mínwastánikéwin Truth and Reconciliation Award, created in partnership by RRC Polytech’s School of Indigenous Education and the Campus Store.

Peatr Thomas is a multidisciplinary Ininew and Anishinaabe self-taught full-time visual artist from the Pimicikamak and Miskooseepi territories. A Youth Facilitator for many years, he is sharing passed down knowledge, traditional teachings, culture and the healing process in creating visual forms of art.

“Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters and truth and reconciliation have become such a large part of College community and we can see how it has been embraced through the engagement and attendance of our events and workshops, but also through the funds we have raised for the Mínwastánikéwin Truth and Reconciliation Award and the Indigenous students we’ve been able to support so far,” says Carla Kematch, Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement. “Part of the values of truth and reconciliation is embedding Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and I’m so honoured that Peatr agreed to work with us to create an authentic piece of artwork that staff and students can feel proud to wear that is true to the meaning behind Every Child Matters. Peatr is an established artist in our community with a distinct vision, many will recognize his incredible murals throughout the city, and we are so grateful for him sharing his art and teachings with us. I can’t wait to see this path for us grow and to create more opportunities.”

All proceeds for Orange Shirt Day t-shirt sales, as well as designs for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit, go towards the Mínwastánikéwin Truth and Reconciliation Award. The word Mínwastánikéwin is Cree and means ‘to set it right.’ This award seeks to advance Indigenous student achievement and has annually distributed $1,000 awards since 2019 with the launch of the College’s first annual Truth and Reconciliation Week held at the end of September.

Consultation for the shirt design began with Thomas discussing themes and inspiration with Elder Paul Guimond and an Orange Shirt Day committee to share what was important to them to convey. They also shared what RRC Polytech seeks to achieve with truth and reconciliation and the College’s strategic direction, supporting Indigenous student success through student supports and programs, and through initiatives like the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training, the Blanket Exercise, Truth and Reconciliation Week and more.

Of the design, Thomas says it represents, “Courage. Courage to move forward. Courage to speak the truth. Courage to make changes for the better. The Youth today will have a better chance at a great future with the protection of the Bear Clan, guidance of our Ancestors, and having the room for growth. Remember and pay tribute to the young ones lost. Remember to Honour the Survivors.”

Original artwork by Peatr Thomas

Thomas’s design is layered and symbolizes many meanings that can be interpreted by the wearer. The illustration features a child figure, two guardian figures, an eagle, a sun, and new growth, all connected with spirit lines and enclosed within a bear paw with figures in each toe.

“What we do now, is for the children that have been lost, the children who never made it home, our children we are raising now, and for the children yet to come,” says Elder Paul Guimond, RRC Polytech Elder-in-Residence. “Orange Shirt Day is a very painful day for our people, but I’m so glad to see so much beauty and connection has come from it; beauty like this artwork that Peatr has created with us and our College community in mind. I see so many teachings and stories represented. With the bear and the eagle, we need courage, and we need courage to love. I think that’s very important to talk about and to share. I am so proud of the work Peatr Thomas has done, and I will be proud to wear this artwork.”

T-shirts are available through the RRC Polytech Campus Store as of Indigenous People’s Day, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Sell out is expected, so don’t hold off on getting your t-shirt.