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'Emotional:' Terriers skate toward truth and reconciliation (VIDEO)

'I myself am First Nation. That's why it's pretty cool for me to wear this jersey' said 11-year-old Orillia Terriers' forward who participated in Orange Jersey Project

In support of truth and reconciliation, two Orillia Minor Hockey Association teams sported orange uniforms on Wednesday night instead of their usual teal and black.  

Following in the footsteps of the U15 Orillia Terriers who took part in the Canada-wide Orange Jersey Project last year, the U12 AA and U18C Orillia Terriers were both selected to participate in the program this year. They donned the orange sweaters at the Rotary Place in west Orillia last night while taking on the TNT Tornados.

In attendance to support the two teams were Sixties Scoop survivors, local dignitaries, and the Orillia Secondary School Soaring Hawk Singers, who performed a drumming ceremony in the lobby at Rotary Place to kick off the event.

Lisa Ligers, a parent of a player on the U18C team, applied to have the two teams included in the project earlier in the season. Once accepted, the players, parents, and coaches were provided educational modules from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

"I felt that having participated in it last year, the players, the coaches, and the families were engaged in continued learning about truth and reconciliation," she said. "We wanted to raise awareness through sport."

Local Elder Rosanne Irving, whose grandmother lived at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, shared her generational experiences and cultural knowledge with both teams during their Orange Jersey Project journey. Players also spent time with Marcel Beaudin, who shared his experiences as an Indigenous athlete and police officer.

"It's pretty emotional for me to see these youth learn and have a deeper understanding of our history," Irving said. "It really warms my heart to know they are out there in the sport showing the learning that they are partaking in."

Irving, a Coldwater resident, says the players seem to have a deeper understanding of Indigenous history now that they've taken part in the Orange Jersey Project. She says they wore the jerseys with pride Wednesday night.

"I think there is a lot of empathy that comes with that," she said. "There is a thirst to dig deeper into our history and there is a level of respect and understanding as to why they are wearing the orange jerseys."

People also had the opportunity to purchase orange t-shirts to wear around the rink from Binoojiinyag gaa-bi-giiwejig, a Rama First Nation initiative created to support survivors of residential schools, Indian day schools, and the Sixties Scoop and their families.

Evan McQuaid, an 11-year-old forward for the U12 Terriers, says participating in the Orange Jersey Project has been "pretty cool."

"It's been pretty fun to be a part of this and have new jerseys," he said. "I really enjoyed when Rosanne came in and we got to learn about what the Sixties Scoop was and Calls to Action 90."

McQuaid says he was proud to wear the orange jersey on Wednesday night.

"I myself am First Nation," he said. "That's why it's pretty cool for me to wear this jersey."

Jack Ashcroft, an 11-year-old right winger for the U12 Terriers, says wearing the orange jersey "felt good."

"It's a good thing to wear this jersey out there," he said. "It feels good to show that Indigenous people are recognized now."

Ashcroft hopes wearing orange jerseys will inspire others to learn more about Indigenous culture and history.

Owen Cheslock, an 11-year-old right winger for the U12 Terriers, says he's enjoyed learning "something new" through the Orange Jersey Project.

"I've learned about the Sixties Scoop," he said. "It's important that we know what happened."

Cheslock says he's passed on what he's learned through the Orange Jersey Project to his friends and family.

"When I grow up, I hope to share this experience with even more people," he said.


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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