Today, Sept. 30, is Orange Shirt Day, which recognizes the effects and intergenerational impacts of the residential school system on First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children in Canada.
Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, British Columbia by the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration project. Phyllis Webstad, a young girl from the Dog Creek reserve, attended the Mission in 1973, where her clothes were removed, including her brand new orange shirt.
Phyllis’ story inspired the Mission to declare September 30th Orange Shirt Day, as this was the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to attend residential schools.
Staff and students at Rainbow District School Board schools are invited to wear orange Wednesday, Sept. 30 in a show of support for residential school survivors.
“This important and significant gesture will bring us together in the spirit of reconciliation,” says Rainbow District School Board director of education Norm Blaseg, in a press release.
“Staff are also welcome to open up or continue the conversation about residential schools with their students.”
“Participating in Orange Shirt Day demonstrates our collective commitment to building an ongoing understanding. We invite everyone to wear orange to show students that every child matters.”
Laurentian University is also marking Orange Shirt Day.
The university is selling orange shirts designed by Atikameksheng Anishinawbek artist Emma Petahtegoose for $20 each today at the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre.
Proceeds go to Indigenous student bursaries and scholarships at Laurentian.
“It was important to us that the designer of the orange shirt had a connection to the place where our institution is situated,” said a press release from the university. “Also, given that this shirt is a symbol of reconciliation and hope, it was critical that the shirt be designed by a youth. We give thanks for Emma’s beautiful design, her beautiful work.”
Laurentian is the site of a key event in Canada’s attempts to reconcile with Indigenous nations, said the press release.
In 1986, the United Church of Canada apologized for its role in the Residential School system, the first church to do so. A cairn marks the spot where survivors and advocates from across our nation gathered in 1986 to mark the apology.
It is also where Art Solomon fasted and challenged the church to “get real or get lost,” just down the hill from the Parker Building.
Laurentian said it continues to strive for reconciliation through its tricultural mandate, as well as in providing bursaries for Indigenous students.
Sudbury.com is putting together an orange shirt photo gallery to share with our readers. Send your pictures to [email protected] or post them in the comments below.