Today is Orange Shirt Day, a day to commemorate all the Indian children who were ripped from their families and pushed into boarding schools.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself. It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region.
The events were designed to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Chief Justice Murray Sinclair challenged all of the participants to keep the reconciliation process alive, as a result of the realization that every former student had similar stories.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.
My university was founded on the campus of one of those Indian boarding schools, and there are multiple monuments reminding us of that fact, our local version of “Never forget”, so of course I’m participating.
Is that orange enough? I should have mentioned this last week, because I looked through my wardrobe, and orange is not a color strongly represented in my attire. Another thing we did on my trip to St Paul yesterday was pick up something I could wear to class today.