Orange Shirt Day recognises the harm done to generations of children by the Indian Residential Schools. The Residential school operated from the 1870s with the last one closing in 1996. Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools to assimilate indigenous children into Euro- Canadian culture. Residential schools disrupted lives and communities causing long-term problems among indigenous peoples. In total, an estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children attended residential schools.
Today is a day to remember and honour residential schools. We must also remember those children who never made it. September 30th has been declared the day Orange Shirt Day in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to the children’s sense of self-esteem and well being. It is an affirmation and commitment to ensure that every one of us matters.
Phyllis Webstad went to the Mission for 300 sleeps n 1973/1974. She had just turned 6 years old. Her grandmother had bought her the orange shirt to wear to school. On getting to the Mission, she was stripped and her orange shirt was taken away from her. On the orangeshirtday.org website, she writes ‘ the colour orange has always reminded me of how my feelings did not matter, how no one cared and how I felt like nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared’.