Another Orange Shirt Day is coming to 100 Mile House.
“It’s in commemoration of Phyllis [Webstad] for having her orange shirt taken away on the first day of school and it has become the opportunity to keep the discussion open on all aspects of residential schools happening annually and to make sure people are aware of what’s happened and the history of the Canadian government,” said Kameron Taylor, First Nations Education and Support at Peter Skene Ogden (PSO) Secondary School.
Orange Shirt Day is an annual event held around Canada usually on Sept. 30, a date chosen because it was the time of year student-aged First Nation children were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools.
The event was started by Webstad in 2013, a Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation Elder, who started attending the St. Joesph Mission in Williams Lake during the 1973/74 school year when she was six years old. As a gift for the new school year, her grandmother bought her a string laced orange shirt which was taken from her as soon as she got to the school.
First Nations people in the South Cariboo would have gone to the same school as Webstad, which is now a Thompson Rivers University Ranch.
Since Sept. 30 is on a Sunday, PSO will be hosting their annual Orange Shirt Day event on Sept. 26. The students, wearing orange, will walk from the school to the ball fields behind the South Cariboo Recreation Centre. Dave Derose, the district principal for First Nations Education, and Tracy Hubner, secretary for First Nations Education, 100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall and MLA Donna Barnett will give speeches.
They will be talking about the day and reconciliation.
The Eliza Archie Memorial School’s drum group, in addition to the Canim Lake Band’s drum group, will also be there.
“It’s an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year,” said Taylor. “It also gives teachers time to plan events that will include children as we want to ensure that we are passing the story and learning on to the next generations.”
Taylor and his grandmother are part of the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation on Vancouver Island. A survivor of the residential school system, his grandmother was part of the Witness Blanket Project, where pieces of every residential school, churches and other buildings across Canada were used to create an installation illustrating the impact and history of the country’s residential school era.
The door in the centre of the project is from the residential school his grandmother attended.
Derose’s mother was also a survivor of Canada’s residential school system.
“I feel that the impact on me was the feeling that you are never good enough, that you’re always a second class citizen, that you’re – in the eyes of the government – a non-person and that it took years to get over that and move forward,” said Derose.
He said the relationship between the Federal Government and First Nations people are starting to improve but there needs to be more education in the school system, particularly the real story of First Nations people.
Orange Shirt Day is important for the reconciliation process and allows people of non-First Nations ancestry to see and hear the stories of First Nations People, said Derose.