School uses rocks to spread Orange Shirt Day message

For Orange Shirt Day Cody Thibeault painted a rock orange and painted the word Hope on it. All students of Horse Lake Elementary School took part in this project designed to raise awareness about Truth and Reconciliation in the community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)For Orange Shirt Day Cody Thibeault painted a rock orange and painted the word Hope on it. All students of Horse Lake Elementary School took part in this project designed to raise awareness about Truth and Reconciliation in the community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
All 200 students attending Horse Lake Elementary School this year painted rocks orange to raise awareness for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)All 200 students attending Horse Lake Elementary School this year painted rocks orange to raise awareness for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Horse Lake Elementary School students Arianna Bracey (back from left), Cody Thibeault, Wyatt Elmore, Dezirae Popadinac show off their rocks with classmates Hazel Stewart (front from left), Lily Dickinson, Cali Bishop and Keira Bracey. Every students at Horse Lake painted rocks orange this year to spread throughout their community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Horse Lake Elementary School students Arianna Bracey (back from left), Cody Thibeault, Wyatt Elmore, Dezirae Popadinac show off their rocks with classmates Hazel Stewart (front from left), Lily Dickinson, Cali Bishop and Keira Bracey. Every students at Horse Lake painted rocks orange this year to spread throughout their community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Lily Dickinson shows off her hand-painted rock at Horse Lake Elementary School last Thursday. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Lily Dickinson shows off her hand-painted rock at Horse Lake Elementary School last Thursday. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Each student at Horse Lake Elementary School wrote messages and words of encouragement on their rocks for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Each student at Horse Lake Elementary School wrote messages and words of encouragement on their rocks for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Horse Lake Elementary School students Arianna Bracey (back from left), Cody Thibeault, Wyatt Elmore, Dezirae Popadinac show off their rocks with classmates Hazel Stewart (front from left), Lily Dickinson, Cali Bishop and Keira Bracey. Every students at Horse Lake painted rocks orange this year to spread throughout their community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Horse Lake Elementary School students Arianna Bracey (back from left), Cody Thibeault, Wyatt Elmore, Dezirae Popadinac show off their rocks with classmates Hazel Stewart (front from left), Lily Dickinson, Cali Bishop and Keira Bracey. Every students at Horse Lake painted rocks orange this year to spread throughout their community. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
All 200 students attending Horse Lake Elementary School this year painted rocks orange to raise awareness for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)All 200 students attending Horse Lake Elementary School this year painted rocks orange to raise awareness for Orange Shirt Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Horse Lake Elementary School is spreading the message of Orange Shirt Day around the community with 215 painted rocks.

Last week, all 200 of the school’s students and 15 of its teachers painted rocks orange and wrote messages related to truth and reconciliation on them. Jodi Thomson, the school’s indigenous worker, said each rock will be distributed around the community in places special to the students and teachers.

“I’ve seen painted rocks around the community and I just thought it’d be nice to do orange rocks to represent truth and reconciliation,” Thomson said. “The kids will take them home and leave them at their mailboxes, around the marsh or somewhere else where they go for walks so other people can walk by and see their messages.”

The rocks also had symbolic significance. Thomson said she chose 215 to represent the 215 unmarked graves discovered last year at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. She sourced the rocks from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, Dog Creek, where Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad is originally from.

The significance wasn’t lost on Grade 7 student Maria Bonciu who gave a brief speech to her fellow students last week.

Maria said they were remembering everyone who had suffered at residential schools, especially children.

“Children are the most important people in society because they are the young minds that are still learning about the world and that one day will be the leaders of the future,” Bonciu said. “Without kids, there is no future, no continuation of the life, culture or traditions that we have today. Children are the optimistic little lives that see things in a brighter light and need to be safe, loved and taught well so that one day they may teach others the same way.”

READ MORE: Grade 11 Alberta student’s design chosen for 2022 Orange Shirt Day design

Painting the rocks was a good idea, Bonciu said, because the creative activity was popular with the students. Combined with the stories they listened to in class she said the school learned not only about residential schools but also their long-term impacts on First Nations communities.

As an individual with indigenous heritage herself, Thomson said it is important to educate children and adults alike.

“Our younger people are learning about truth and reconciliation, residential schools that we adults didn’t learn about. Hopefully, parents can have that conversation with their children and learn more about it so we never have to have any of this happen again,” Thomson said.



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

100 Mile House