ABOUT ORANGE SHIRT DAY
Orange shirt day was officially started in 2013, inspired by these events of the past.
In 1973 when six year old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school – new clothes being a rare and wonderful thing for a First Nation girl growing up in her grandmother’s care - but the Mission Oblates quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.
While she only attended for one year the impact affected Ms. Webstad’s life for many years.
I finally get it, that feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter.
Ms. Webstad’s story is the nucleus for what has become a national movement to recognize the experience of survivors of Indian residential schools, honour them, and show a collective commitment to ensure that every child matters. The initiative calls for every Canadian to wear an orange shirt on September 30 in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.
The date, September 30, was chosen because that was the time of the year the trucks and buses would enter the communities to “collect” the children and deliver them to their harsh new reality of cultural assimilation, mental, sexual and physical abuse, shame and deprivation.
Phyllis Webstad is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed Secwepemc and Irish/French heritage, was born in Dog Creek, and lives in Williams Lake, BC. Today, Phyllis is married, has one son, a step-son and five grandchildren. She is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society, and tours the country telling her story and raising awareness about the impacts of the residential school system. She has now published two books, the "Orange Shirt Story" and "Phyllis's Orange Shirt" for younger children.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
The residential schools impacted the lives of tens of thousands of children who attended these schools and their parents – robbing them of each other, their values and traditions as well as causing irreparable spiritual, mental health and physical health damages for years to come.
There have been many apologies over the years from various religious (including Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican), federal and provincial government institutions for all of the suffering that was endured by those children and their families, but it is clear to this day that it is not enough.
Today, we ask you to stand in solidarity with us to show support to all of those affected.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The Orange Shirt Society is collecting donations through their website. These donations allow them to continue fostering Indian Residential School reconciliation, raising awareness across Canada of the continuing intergenerational impacts of the schools, and of the concept of “Every Child Matters”.
Artwork by Adrian Nadjiwon
Show your support
Show your support this year for Orange Shirt Day and show off your orange shirts by posting a photo of yourself in your shirt with the hashtag #OrangeShirtDayNPX on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.