In 1973, 6-year-old, Phyllis Webstad lived on the Dog Creek reserve and was sent to “The Mission”, a residential school. As she prepared to leave home, her grandmother managed to buy her a new outfit for her first day and Phyllis chose a bright and beautiful orange shirt. However, when she got to the residential school, they stripped her of all her clothes, and she never saw the orange shirt again.
Since then, the colour orange has always reminded her of the things that got taken away from her, that she was worth nothing and that her feelings did not matter. It was not until she was 27 years old that she went to a treatment center for healing and has been healing since then. Orange Shirt Day was established in 2013 by Phyllis, based on her story.
This year, on September 30th, 2021, Canada recognized this day as its first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This is the first step to remediation and awareness to support survivors who were affected by the residential school system in Canada and to remember those who did not make it out. For years Canada has shied away from its history, but because of Orange Shirt Day, Canadians stood in solidarity as they discovered the horrors of this school system.
On this day, Oak Learners took part in this movement by wearing orange, to raise awareness and stress the importance of truth and reconciliation to all students. We strive for inclusivity and equity for all learners. “Every Child Matters”.
Our principal at Oak Learners, Kelly Farrell, had this to say about the importance of the day at the school. “We recognized the importance of the first Truth and Reconciliation Day by initiating conversations and answering questions the students had about the day. Our students experienced a Land Acknowledgement and spent time down by the Lake, acknowledging the traditional lands of the First Nations Peoples. At the school, we listened to Anishnaabe music and learned about the importance of drumming while making our own drum circles. Our students also made tributes to the children who suffered, survived and died in Residential Schools by making Orange t-shirt and painting rocks to add to a memorial garden in front of the school. We teach them that the phrase “Every Child Matters” goes beyond the children we can hear and see every day, but also the children who don’t have voices to speak out for themselves. By learning about the past, we are making this new generation stronger and well-prepared to do better in the future.”
As we continue to educate ourselves on this subject, we encourage everyone else to as well. Please visit www.nctr.ca to learn more and spread awareness where you can.
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