Orange Shirt Day is Friday, September 30, 2016 and it represents a day for healing, reconciliation and support for the Indigenous students that were placed in residential schools.
The day is in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well-being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
These schools, which operated from 1831 to 1996, stripped the children of their cultural identity in order to assimilate them into Canadian culture.
The day of September 30 was chosen because this was the date that trucks and busses would enter Indigenous communities to take the children from their homes and to the residential schools. An estimated 150,000 children attended these schools and over 4,000 of the students died while attending these schools.
The significance of an orange shirt on this day is portrayed through the story of Phyllis Webstad, a student that was brought to the residential schools.
Phyllis went to her first day of school, excited to be wearing a new orange shirt. However, upon arriving at the school she was stripped of the shirt, which was replaced with the school’s institutional uniform.
This was a day that Phyllis remembered for the rest of her life because having something that she was so excited about was taken away. It made her feel worthless and insignificant.
Grand Erie secondary students will wear orange shirts to show support for all of the Indigenous children whose rights and culture were taken away from them in the residential schools.
It is especially important that our Board recognize the attempted elimination of the Indigenous culture, as one of the longest running and earliest known residential schools resides in Brantford.
This residential school was called the Mohawk Institute and operated from 1831 to 1962.
Approximately 80,000 survivors that attended these schools are still alive today, so by wearing orange we are supporting each of these survivors and their family members that have been affected by their time in the residential schools.
Orange is considered a social colour that is used to provoke change through conversation and that is what we will be doing in the community by wearing orange.
Support is available in the guidance office for students and faculty who are dealing with this topic.