Tansi miyo kisikaw (Hello, Good morning everyone),
Orange Shirt Day is an event, created in 2013, designed to educate people and promote awareness in Canada about the Indian residential school system and the impact it has had on Indigenous communities for over a century-an impact that continues today.
In 1973, a young girl by the name of Phyllis Webstad from the Northern Shuswap First Nation in British Columbia went to St. Joseph’s Mission residential school. Phyllis was so happy and proud to wear her bright orange shirt that her grandmother had given her on the first day of school but when she arrived they took away her clothes including her orange shirt and it was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange reminded her of all the negative experiences at residential school and, as she has said, “how my feelings didn't matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
The message that Phyllis wants to pass along on Orange Shirt Day-and every day-is that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis to educate people about residential schools and fight racism and bullying. Therefore, September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
Everyone is encouraged to wear an orange shirt or something that is orange as a sign of respect and to honour all those children who went to residential school and for the ones that sadly, never made it back home.
Wayne Caron, BA/NS
FNMI/Indigenous Support Worker