Orange Shirt Day sheds light on dark history of Canada’s residential schools

Students of School District 27 hold up signs during Orange Shirt Day outside of the South Cariboo Recreation Centre in 100 Mile House. Brendan Kyle Jure photo.
Seabird Island Community School’s language curriculum developer Dianna Kay said at this year’s Orange Shirt Day, teachers were given resources to support student learning, plus given a professional development on the Project of Hearts. “We focus on “thriving” and becoming the best people we possibly can, as first, second and some third generation “thrivers”, we encouraged the children to be kind to themselves, to others and to their environment,” she told the Observer via email. (Submitted/Dianna Kay)
Alison Green, Tina Donald, Chief Shelly Loring, Charli Fortier and Angie Rainer play drums and sing a song for lonely hearts at the Orange Shirt Day ceremony. Beth Audet photo. Alison Green, Tina Donald, Chief Shelly Loring, Charli Fortier and Angie Rainer play drums and sing a song for lonely hearts at the Orange Shirt Day ceremony. Beth Audet photo.
Students heard songs and stories from leaders of local Indigenous groups to commemorate orange Shirt Day Friday morning. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News
Nathan Wilson singing the Coast Salish anthem during the opening of the Orange Shirt Day assembly at Chalmers Elementary. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Orange shirt day was sparked from Phyllis Webstad’s account of having her sparkly new orange shirt taken away on her first day of St. Joseph Mission resdiential school. Since then, Orange Shirt Day has become a way to keep the discusion going on all aspects of residential schools. Thy can be purchased at Big Wheel Burger for $20. (File photo)
Grade 10 Reynolds students Abby Busby and Holly Sparks write the names of residential schools onto arm bands as part of a bigger project to learn more about Canada’s past ahead of Orange Shirt Day. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Clad in orange T-shirts, students across the country will spend their Mondays learning about the intergenerational harm done to children at Canada’s residential schools.

Sept. 30 marks the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day, started by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor and Stswecem’c Xgat’tem from Williams Lake. The national day of remembrance refers to one of her first memories at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in B.C.’s central Interior in the 1970s, when staff took away her orange shirt, bought especially for school, when she was six years old.

“The colour orange has always reminded me of that [incident] and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,” Webstad writes on the Orange Shirt Day website. “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Her story has inspired many across the country and around the world to talk about the realities of residential schools and the wider historical marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Thousands of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were removed from their homes and forced to attend residential schools. The last one closed in 1996.

WATCH: B.C. woman behind Orange Shirt Day pens new book for teachers

Webstad spends her time sharing her story and her beliefs about reconciliation with young people, including at an elementary school in B.C.’s Fraser Valley earlier this month.

“The elementary (schools) are the hardest,” she told the Agassiz-Harrison Observer. “I have to really watch what I say with the younger ones. With the older ones, I can tell them more, but with the younger ones, it’s really just surface stuff to introduce the topic.”

READ MORE: Webstad’s Orange Shirt story helps lead the way for truth and reconciliation

This year’s Orange Shirt Day will also celebrate Bill C-369, a federal bill awaiting a second vote in the Senate to make Sept. 30 the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. If passed, the last day of September will be a statutory holiday.

“It’s the truth of the history of Canada,” Webstad said of residential schools. “It’s not just First Nation history, this is Canadian history. And Canadians that live in this country need to be aware of this dark past.”

– with files from Grace Kennedy


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Russell Books marks opening of new location by setting Guiness World Record

Store stacks world record books more than six metres high

PHOTOS: 11th annual Gingerbread Showcase comes to Victoria

Bakers spent more than 100 hours perfecting their creations

Time is ticking for Victoria school relocation

Beausoleil school hopes a one year extension is enough time to find a new home

Petition calls on province to cover transfer fees after Island adoption centre closes – again

‘Choices clients weren’t told the ship was sinking,’ says would-be parent

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read