Last year, the Cariboo School Districts 27 & 28, the Cariboo Regional District and the City of Williams Lake launched Orange Shirt Day on September 30 to honour the children who attended residential schools.
You’re invited to join with other congregations and national office staff on Tuesday, September 30, 2014, and wear an orange shirt in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well-being, and an affirmation of our commitment to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The Story Behind Orange Shirt Day
“I went to the Mission for one year. 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 in. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had eyelets and lace, and I felt so pretty in that shirt and excited to be going to school! Of course, 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. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! Since then the colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.
“I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further from the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!
“I am honoured to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories. I want my orange shirt back!”
—Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, Dog Creek, BC
Phyllis’ orange shirt is a symbol of so many losses experienced by those who were sent to Indian Residential Schools over several generations. Losses of family, culture, language, freedom, parenting, self-esteem and worth were experienced by everyone. Beatings, sexual abuse and neglect plagued many. Let’s not forget the children but honour them on September 30.
Don’t forget to send in a photo of you (and your friends) in an orange shirt! Email your picture to Katharine Masterton Sisk.