Haley Paetkau took the lesson of Orange Shirt Day to heart.
Paetkau, a Grade 5 student from Victoria, raised $2,556 by selling bracelets at her school for Orange Shirt Day, and donated it to Stz’uminus Community School near Ladysmith. Although Paetkau goes to school in Victoria, she wanted the money to go directly to an Indigenous school.
Orange Shirt Day is held every Sept. 30, to acknowledge residential school survivors, and bring communities together in a spirit of reconciliation and hope.
When Paetkau was in Grade 3, she noticed her school did not recognize Orange Shirt Day. She spoke with her teachers and principal about it, and they made the change.
“I felt it was important because this is Indigenous peoples land, and we should acknowledge that, and acknowledge residential school survivors” Paetkau said.
Paetkau’s father, Steve Sxwithul’txw is a residential school survivor. He attended Kuper Island residential school. Sxwithul’txw is now an accomplished film maker, with a documentary film Leave it on the Water, and his series Tribal Police Files, which is entering its third season of production.
“When she first started talking about it I was a little blown away because we never really talked about it,” Sxwithul’txw said. “It was her own ingenuity that she brought it to the attention of the teachers and the students.”
The money Paetkau raised will go towards funding a student trip to Hobiyee, a three-day event honouring Indigenous youth. The event is hosted by the Nisga’a nation at Gitlaxt’aamiks or New Aiyansh village, midway between Terrace and the Alaska panhandle.
“Last year we went on a trip to Vancouver for singing and dancing too. Ninety percent of our students have never been off Vancouver Island — never been on a BC ferry. They’re in awe,” Stz’uminus language and culture teacher, Clinton Charlie said. “For them to travel, see the world, and say ‘hey, there’s more stuff outside the community’, and let them explore that, that’s what we want.”
Stz’uminus Community School invited Paetkau and Sxwithul’txw to a recent assembly to be recognized for their donation. They were welcomed in ceremony, and given gifts from Stz’uminus students. Paetkau was invited to join Stz’uminus at Hoibyee in February.