As National Truth and Reconciliation Day approaches on Sept. 30, the Royal Canadian Mint has made its wearable keepsake, an acknowledgement of the truths behind the residential school experience on First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and their families, available for purchase until December 2024.
Honouring the survivors and the children who never returned home, the Truth and Reconciliation keepsake raises awareness about the intergenerational impacts of residential, day and boarding schools. The Mint says the medallion invites reflection and conversation about the impacts of those institutions and the conditions that created them. All net proceeds from the sale of each keepsake will be donated to the Na-mi-quai-ni-mak Community Support Fund (NCTR) to support commemoration and public education projects across Canada.
“We are delighted that sales of the Keepsake coin will be extended for another year as its production will continue to support the healing journeys of Indigenous communities,” said Stephanie Scott, executive director for the NCTR. “Na-mi-quai-ni-mak means I remember them in Anishinaabemowin, and Survivor-led activities, such as community ceremonies and feasts, commemorative gardens and plaques, ensure that the memories and experiences of those impacted by residential schools will live on.”
“The Truth and Reconciliation Keepsake helps us acknowledge the truth of the Indigenous children who never returned from Residential, Day and Boarding schools,” said RCM President and CEO, Marie Lemay. “It means a great deal to us that we could participate in reconciliation by making a keepsake that raises valuable funds for the commemoration efforts of the Na-mi-quai-ni-mak Community Support Fund and helps encourage others to engage in reconciliation.”
Both sides of the keepsake feature richly symbolic imagery, reflective of First Nations, Inuit and Métis teachings and traditional art forms. Its design is the result of a unique collaboration between artists Leticia Spence (First Nations), Jason Sikoak (Inuit), JD Hawk (Métis) and the NCTR’s Survivors Circle to weave a thoughtful and compelling story of the Residential School experience for Indigenous communities across Canada.
On one side of the keepsake, the three artists created a collection of visual elements that form an expression of Indigenous cultures and perspectives. First Nations rights, culture and teachings are represented by the natural element of the sun and traditional teepee lodgings; a tikanagan (cradle board) held and supported by two people, as a symbol of connection and traditional family support across generations, this is also supported by symbols of water, and a stylized fireweed flower; and to the left, a triangular motif inspired by parfleche (a rawhide carrying bag) designs. The Inuit perspective is represented by traditional tattoo line work that was taken away by colonialists and is now coming back as a sign of pride; the northern lights that symbolize Inuit Nunangat and reflect the beauty of the North; a brother and sister—a representation of those who were sent to residential schools—facing the challenge that lies before them; and to the left, an ulu which is a traditional curved knife that is used in the North. The Métis Nation is represented by the Métis sash that signifies connection—to nature, to the past, to each other; a beadwork flower representing resilience amid thorns that signify pain and suffering; the bison, a symbol of strength and determination, bravely facing east to confront the approaching colonizers; and to the left, the infinity symbol that represents the joining of two cultures, First Nations and European, and their permanent existence as a people.
The other side bears messages of powerful significance: “EVERY CHILD MATTERS” is prominently inscribed in English and French. To the left and right, pairs of footprints, represent ancestors walking with younger generations. At the centre of it all, orange-coloured hand prints form the shape of the sun—the life-giving source of light and heat. Within the hands is the flame motif from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation logo, an acknowledgement of the spiritual flame that is born inside a person, while the hands are encircled by a border representing the radiating waves of the sun’s light and heat.
For more details on the keepsake, click here.