Image: T-shirt design by Native NorthWest

“I had just turned 6 years old. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission School… a shiny orange shirt…I felt so pretty in that shirt and excited 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 saw it again, except on other kids…”—Phyllis Webstad

Like over 150,000 other First Nations students across Canada, Phyllis was forced to attend a residential school where the mandate was to “kill the Indian in the child.” Her story has sparked a movement, where on Sept 30 of each year, we can choose to wear an orange shirt 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.

Capilano University’s Early Childhood Care and Education program student club is collaborating with the Capilano U Children’s Centre on September 30 to bring Orange Shirt Day to the North Van campus. Next Tuesday at 11 a.m. everyone is invited to gather in orange under the First Nations Pavilion, where there will be drumming and sharing songs. All campus members are encouraged to participate and bring their hand drums if they have them.

These types of initiatives create the opportunity for meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools, the legacy they have left behind, and the ways we can build bridges with each other for reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day is a day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, as do all who have been affected, to recognize the harm the residential school system did to First Nations’ children’s self-esteem and well-being, and to affirm a commitment to ensuring that everyone around us matters.

Join us in orange, to honour the children who survived, as well as remember those who didn’t.  In the words of Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, let’s “keep the reconciliation process alive.” 

To purchase a T-shirt for Orange Shirt Day, contact Cheryl Schreader or visit one of the following websites: Native NorthWest or Tara Lee Gardner Designs.

To find out more about the history behind Orange Shirt Day, please visit this website or watch this video:

Submitted by Sarah Ward, First Nations Student Liaison, Sunshine Coast campus