Small Pins Starting Big Conversations

Pattern Canada Stories

Written By: Pattern Stories

Lana making pins

Chatham-Kent’s First Indigneous Peer Navigator

When news broke of the 215 unmarked graves confirmed at a Residential School site in British Columbia last May, Lana Parenteau sprung into action.

Parenteau is the first Indigenous Peer Navigator (LINK) in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. She connects with urban Indigenous Peoples to help them find services and programs in the area. She also does outreach by preparing soup, sandwiches, and snacks for urban Indigenous Peoples who are food insecure.

As a survivor of the Sixties Scoop (LINK), Lana, who is from Delaware Nation, says it’s important that the actions of the past aren’t forgotten and that we honour all the young lives that were lost.

But how can this be done? Her most recent initiative all started with a small orange pin.

Orange Shirt Day

“Two years ago, I was asked to do something for Orange Shirt Day in Moraviantown. So I was thinking about what kids could do and I came up with these pins,” Lana says.

Orange Shirt Day (LINK) happens on September 30 every year to start conversations about all aspects of Residential Schools.

When the first 215 unmarked graves were recovered last spring, Lana wanted to continue the conversation.

“To me, these pins are about talking about this; they’re, they’re about education. I don’t talk about Orange Shirt Day on just one day, I talk about it every day,” she says.

Making Pins by the Thousands

Lana explains that she started making the pins for friends to wear, but the support for the pins grew quickly.

She estimates that several thousands of these pins have been made and shared with people in Chatham-Kent and beyond.

Created out of foam with a piece of leather and a feather, Lana says each part of them represents something different.

“The leather represents violence against women and children, the feathers represent our feathered friends like hawks, eagles, and owls, and they’re placed on an orange shirt for Orange Shirt Day,” explains Lana.

Lana says her granddaughters helped her make the first batches, and now there are volunteers across Chatham-Kent making the pins. They’re not for sale, either. Anyone can find the pins at local businesses and organizations, or from Lana herself.

“To me, these pins are about talking about this, they’re about education. I don’t talk about Orange Shirt Day on just one day, I talk about it every day.”

Continuing the Conversation

“We don’t accept money for them. But if someone wants to make a donation to support local Indigenous programs or a donation of materials for the pins, we’re grateful for it,” she says.

Since May, hundredsHundreds more unmarked graves have been recovered at Residential School sites across Canada and the United States since May, and Lana says the news of more being recovered is never easy to hear.

“We’re grieving, we’re sad. A lot of community members I work with are angry, and I understand the anger. But I’m there to listen. I put my own trauma on the backburner because I can’t bring my own trauma into this. But when I go home, I still have it,” Lana says.

To learn more about the importance of Orange Shirt Day and how you can get involved, visit orangeshirtday.org.

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