Sept. 30 has been officially designated a “national holiday” in Canada – but this is not a “fun day off”, but a time for a day of quiet reflection or participation in a community event to remember those who were victimized by the “Residential School” system. Many died and were hidden in the ground, some survived, and were buried in their trauma. We must all acknowledge the damage done, hold those responsible accountable, and DO BETTER, so that this sort of horror is never visited upon anyone ever again – least of all children.
Wear an orange shirt, attend a commemorative event (check with local Native Friendship Centres, or other Indigenous groups in your area), or simply take the time to honour the memories of these children and their families – think about what you might do to make things better…imagine if it was your children, your family.
Orange Shirt Day – History
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself. It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl. Read her story, in her own words, at orangeshirtday.org
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.
She earned diplomas in Business Administration from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and in Accounting from Thompson Rivers University. Phyllis received the 2017 TRU Distinguished Alumni Award for her unprecedented impact on local, provincial, national and international communities through the sharing of her orange shirt story.
Other Places You Can Donate
Orange Shirt Society: Orange Shirt Society works to raise awareness of inter-generational trauma caused by the residential schools and commemorate the experiences of survivors. Donate here.
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society: First Nations Child and Family Caring Society develops education initiatives, public policy campaigns and provides resources to support First Nations communities and ensure the well-being of youth and their families. Donate here.
Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society: (Same thing but directly link) Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society is a B.C. based organization that’s been providing services like counselling and health and cultural services to survivors of residential schools. Donate here. Residential school survivors who need support can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
Legacy of Hope Foundation: The Legacy of Hope Foundation‘s goal is to educate and raise awareness about the impacts of residential schools in the form of educational tools and consultation with survivors. Donate here.