“From this day forth now are the days we’re standing up,” a quote from Cody Montour (aka: OKEMA’s) song “Life of a Native”. The song is a powerful reflection of the shared indigenous experience featuring Elder Floyd Redcrow Westerman’s wisdom, and brings forth a strong message of standing together united.
Which is exactly what the team at 22Fresh HQ knew we wanted to do in order to bring any kind of Orange Shirt day initiative to life. Stand together with our indigenous community, and let them guide us as we began our own journeys of learning and deeper understanding.
Our first step was to connect, and in July of 2021 we reached out to our indigenous-owned stockist Snipe and Celly Sports Excellence located on Flying Dust First Nation to connect with Manager, Clay Debray. Clay was excited we called and immediately brought Cody Montour into our discussions, Owner of OKEMA Clothing, which operates out of the shop.
“For a non-indigenious company to form a symbiotic relationship with us means the world. It means we’re taking steps in the right direction,” stated Clay. “It’s going to take not just us, it’s going to take more organizations, people, businesses that feel the same to continue to bring the awareness.” The team further discussed our intentions of fully donating 100% of the proceeds and asked for guidance from Clay and Cody on where those proceeds would be most impactful.
“You always want to make a bigger, stronger team - and that’s kind of the reality of life.. the bigger and stronger your team, the more success you can go after,” said Clay, and that’s exactly what we did. We built a team, continued to listen, learn and together with the Saskatoon Survivors Circle and Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association we formed a united group of indigenous and non-indigenous individuals all with a common goal, to bring support, awareness and understanding to the truth and impacts of residential schools within our community.
With the goal of bringing collective awareness and making an impact in mind, we began working together on a design that would capture the essence of a supported community collectively healing together. “Being able to design with the 22Fresh team, it was a good moment to really reflect and take in that we are all working on this together. We’re bringing to life a design that’s going to connect with all peoples, all races, of all cultures to help spread awareness of indigenous issues,” stated Cody.
The design showcases a residential school child standing with their family members who are dressed in full regalia. Behind them, a diverse community showing support with a multicultural set of hands embracing them.
When asked what could we do as allies to the indigenous community Cody stated, “I think the biggest step that you can do as an ally is to educate your family and friends. It’s going to be hard to reach some people because you need a certain level of compassion and empathy to really understand what we as a people are going through.” We hope that through this symbiotic relationship we are able to encourage our community to educate themselves and others, come together united and move forward with empathy, respect and support for our indigenous peoples and their communities.
The OKEMA x 22Fresh Truth and Reconciliation Tees will be available for purchase online at 22fresh.com and in-store at Snipe and Celly Sports Excellence with 100% of proceeds going directly to the Saskatoon Survivors Circle and Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association.
For more information, we encourage you to visit these educational resources:
Residential School History
Meet the Survivors Circle