Today, many will be wearing an orange shirt in honour of the 215 children, whose remains were found at a mass burial site at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Residential schools were ‘boarding schools’ for Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) children and youth, financed by the federal government but staffed and run by several Christian religious institutions from 1863 to 1996. The explicit intent was to separate Indigenous children from their families and culture. The schools were in existence for well over 100 years, nearly seven generations. Many children never returned home, and those who did often suffered from unimaginable trauma.
Why an orange shirt? It represents the experience of survivor, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad who shared the story of her first day at residential school.
“We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!
When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The colour 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.”
Annual Orange Shirt Day usually falls on September 30, providing an opportunity to open the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools and their intergenerational effect, trauma and impact. A discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. A day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those that have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.
The City View Community Association recognizes this dark history which impacts continue today and is committed to a future of inclusion, respect and reconciliation. Our community is located on unceded Algonquin Territory and we acknowledge and thank the Algonquin Nation for hosting us on their land.
Today, we remember the 215 children found at the Kamloops site as well as all children and families of the residential school system.
Learn more about Orange Shirt Day: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/
Learn more about the residential school system in Canada: http://www.trc.ca/resources.html