Acknowledging the legacy of Canada’s Residential School system and its impact on Indigenous communities, past, present and future.
What is Residential School?
The term “Residential School” refers to the education system that forced Indigenous children into mainstream “Canadian” ways of living. The practice removed Indigenous children from their families, languages, customs, and traditional teachings.
There were 139 Indian residential schools funded and operated by the federal government. Opened in 1828 and located only 50 kilometres from Guelph, the Mohawk Institute Residential School was the first and longest continually operated residential school in Canada. It closed in 1970, after 142 years.
The Orange Shirt Story
Phyllis Webstad (Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation) started the Orange Shirt Society in 2013 based on her experience at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia. Phyllis grew up on Dog Creek Reservation with her grandmother. In 1973, at six years old, Phyllis was to attend the local residential school. Her grandmother purchased a beautiful orange shirt for her to wear on the first day. Phyllis was nervous and excited, as she was not sure what to expect. Upon arriving to the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in her brand new orange shirt, it was stripped from her body never to be returned.
“The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
– Phyllis Webstad
The Orange Shirt Society
The Orange Shirt Society witnesses and honours the healing journey of residential school survivors and their families. The society aims to create conversations about the residential school system, among all Canadians. Their message is simple: Every Child Matters.
Orange Shirt Day
Annually on September 30, we wear orange shirts to commemorate the survivors of residential school. It was the time of year when children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools. Today, we must talk about anti-racism and anti-bullying. Let’s come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.
For more information visit: www.orangeshirtday.org