truth and reconciliation orange shirt day
A couple wears orange at a ceremony on May 31, 2021 in Langford to remember children who died at residential "schools." Photo by Shalu Mehta/The Discourse
Vancouver Island West Shore

‘I want my people and culture to thrive’: An Indigenous student shares hopes for reconciliation

Emilie Galligos-Koenders, a student at Royal Bay Secondary School, offers a reflection on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Emilie Galligos-Koenders September 28, 2021

Editor’s note: Sept. 30 marks the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as well as Orange Shirt Day. In an effort to lift up Indigenous voices and youth voices, The Discourse reached out to the Sooke School District to see if a student would be interested in sharing their thoughts with us. The following article is a submission from Emilie Galligos-Koenders, a Grade 11 student at Royal Bay Secondary School, whose family is from the Tla’amin Nation.


My name is Emilie Galligos-Koenders and I am an Indigenous student in Grade 11 at Royal Bay Secondary School, located on unceded Songhees and Esquimalt territory. My family is from the Tla’amin Nation, and my grandmother is a residential school survivor. 

September 30 is the National Day For Truth And Reconciliation. This is an important day for me because I want more people to be aware of the pain and suffering that Indigenous children have and still experience across Canada — also known as part of Turtle Island, a name some Indigenous Peoples use for the North American continent. 

The National Day For Truth And Reconciliation is a day where all people can come together to support survivors and their communities. It is a day where all Canadians are reminded why we need to work together towards reconciliation through taking meaningful action. I want this important day to be an opportunity for learning and reflection on the impact of residential schools. Moving forward, I not only want this day to be about educating, but also a somber celebration: a day where we can celebrate our culture and resilience, as we sing and dance together for the people who have been silenced. 

As a young Indigenous woman, I feel privileged to have the strength of my grandmother to help me move forward in my journey. My grandmother did not have the same privileges I have, nor did any of the other residential school survivors. My family has been affected personally by residential schools, and the ripple effect can be seen going through the generations. My hope is to personally break this cycle for myself and my future generations of my family. I want my people and culture to thrive, instead of just barely surviving. 

On Sept. 30, my hope is that all people will come together to learn important truths and take steps on their own reconciliation journey. Going forward, I would like to see more collaboration, cooperation and reciprocal relationships among all Canadians.