Local orange shirt design helps voices be heard

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Smith School and EPC alum Tara Cardinal draws inspiration from fabric for Truth and Reconciliation Day

ATHABASCA – You’ll be sure to see plenty of orange shirts this week as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation arrives on September 30, and many of them, at least in the Athabasca region, will sport a new design created by a former student of the Smith School and Edwin Parr Composite.

When Smith School principal Amber Hensch was looking for an artist to create a design that could be incorporated into the orange shirts worn to commemorate Orange Shirt Day, also officially recognized as Canada’s National Day for Truth and reconciliation, she actually went to Tara Cardinal’s older sister first.

“My older sister was actually offered the opportunity but turned it down, so I stepped in. The principal was basically looking for former artists from the school,” Cardinal said in a Sept. 23 interview.

The drawing shows a community of people, holding hands around a pole adorned with pairs of shoes. Misty colored streams in the background can also be seen, as the entire scene takes place on the back of a large turtle.

“As this is the second year we’ve recognized the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, I wanted it to have meaning,” the 20-year-old artist said, explaining his vision for the design, inspired by his experience at a recent powwow that featured a similar pole adorned with children’s shoes.

“They had this big pole and had a bunch of shoes and I thought that was a really good idea because the shoes represent, to me, they represent the children who were recently found in Canada in unmarked graves. I had to link this. And then the lights that come on are just our ancestors.

“I realized that I don’t have to go through my pain alone, we do it as a community, and there is so much healing that way. So, I have our elders; our men; our little elders, our children; and our women, so it’s a full and whole community… and then the turtle represents us, to this day, and we still have our place here and we fight to make our voices heard.

Cardinal said she is relieved that the stories that were once heard only behind closed doors in her family are now being made public and subject to public scrutiny. She remembers being asked her opinion on this story in a high school social studies class just a few years ago.

“I definitely didn’t coat anything,” she said. “In my family, when it comes to our story, we really want to be able to talk about it among friends and peers and that’s really important to us because people can tell our stories and now we’re being heard.”

Another inspiration for the design was a recent medicine walk she attended through the Athabasca Native Friendship Center, she said.

“Just being able to be outside and being able to really dedicate myself to thinking about ideas and what I really wanted to get out clicked. Inspiration!” she says. “Honestly, I’m really, really grateful for this opportunity because not only do I have support for my family, but it’s also for my little cousins ​​because they can look up to me and it’s really a stepping stone. for me to fit in. I’m so lucky to be able to do this.

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