There was a united sea of orange on the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation territory in Lantzville on July 1.
Hundreds of visitors arrived in droves to listen to the experiences of residential school survivors and celebrate Indigenous culture. A roster of musicians, comedians, speakers and drummers all volunteered their time and talent in the name of unity.
‘Orange Day in the Bay’ was put together in just two weeks by organizers Peter Hudson and Tyler Bob. The festival aimed to bring people together, and proved to be entertaining for all ages and backgrounds.
People from Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay and Parksville Qualicum Beach came to enjoy the sun, the atmosphere and most importantly, to listen as the residential school survivors shared their stories.
From the start, Hudson said the festival was not an ‘anti-Canada Day’ event, but rather an alternative celebration to focus on Indigenous culture and experiences, instead of on the country itself.
‘Orange Day in the Bay’ aimed to acknowledge the uncovering of the Indigenous children’s remains in a respectful way, but did so with a healthy dose of laughter generously provided by standup comedians.
Although not mandatory, the majority of attendees choose to wear orange shirts as a show of solidarity and support. Since 2013, the orange shirt has been a symbol for residential school survivors and the multi-generational trauma the schools caused.
As part of the festival’s opening ceremony, performer Greg Charleson said “as a survivor, I’ve been really triggered these last few weeks. I’ve found myself cursing, cussing, swearing, all of these things that I thought I left behind. But they came back up. And so, saying to my boys this morning, we need to go (to ‘Orange Day in the Bay’) so we can share, so we can connect.”
While on stage, Hudson said: “To my non-Indigenous friends, it is important that we don’t become frozen in a state of guilt. If you could do one thing, please read the 95 calls to action slated by the Truth and Reconciliation act. The government has only followed through on a handful of these. Read them, and see if there is anything that you, or your family, can do. To move these actions forward, it is going to take each of us doing something small to create a big change. There is power in numbers.”
He said he hoped the festival was just beginning of better things to come.
“Its great to come and support this and wear an orange shirt, but there is work to be done. It takes more than that. We need to, as non-Indigenous people, step up. We need to have our families step up, and we need to make changes.”
Kirsten Bob and Sophia Sampson of the Salish Sisters performance group, the first to warm up the crowd during the opening ceremony, said they were surprised by the turnout and were pleased to be able to ‘sing their hearts out’ at such a significant event.
“It was really exciting to be asked on behalf of Tyler Bob. He thought it’d be fitting that singers from our community would open,” said Kirsten.
“It’s really uplifting to see how many people wanted to show support and be a part, in any way possible,” said Sampson.
Sampson hoped the non-Indigenous people in attendance would continue to show their support for Indigenous communities, and encouraged everyone to research different ways to help beyond the July 1 event.
“I hope it just doesn’t stop with today, that people don’t just take their orange shirts off and be like, ‘well, that was a good day.’ It should be continued support and continued solidarity,” said Kirsten.
One attendee, Tanya Connor, first learned of the event through social media and thought it would be, at the very least, something fun to check out.
“It’s just wonderful, just wonderful for a such a huge show like this,” said Connor. “It’s more than what I expected.”
Hudson thanked all the performers, everyone in attendance and especially the Snaw-Naw-As people, for helping him and Bob pull off such a momentous day in the bay.
Entry was by donation and proceeds went to the Setut Group, an fledgling organization created by Bob that aimed to revive culture, including a youth language education program.