“The colour orange always reminded me how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying, and no one cared,” Phyllis Webstad
Phyllis Webstad is from the Stswecem’c (Canoe Creek) Xgat’tem (Dog Creek) First Nation. When she was six years old, she was sent to St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in B.C. She wanted to look nice, so she chose to wear an orange shirt given to her by her grandmother. When she arrived at the school her orange shirt was taken from her, and she was forced to wear a uniform. This was just the beginning of the many things that were taken from her and all children who entered residential schools.
In 2013 Phyllis Webstad started Orange Shirt Day to remind people about the abuse and neglect that the children suffered. Wearing an Orange Shirt honours the children who did not come home and the survivors, their families and their communities.
Orange Shirt Day (Truth and Reconciliation Day) 2021 is now a federal holiday, with postal workers, federal government staff and bank employees getting the day off. The day is one of reflection on atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples. Only three provinces have designated the day as an official holiday. In provinces where it is not designated, it is up to employers whether to give the day off. In Quebec, September 30 is not a provincial holiday.
Orange Shirt Day is a symbol of the “stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.”
On this day:
- Wear an orange shirt purchased from an Indigenous company (Mi’kmaq Printing and design at www.mikmaqprinting.com).
- Read and reflect on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report 94 calls to action. Google: 94 Calls to Action
- Donate $30 to a local or national Indigenous organization working to improve the lives of children, families, individuals and communities.
- Watch online events hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
- 48 books by Indigenous Writers to read to understand residential schools – article available online at CBC Books, June 10, 2021.
- Read Phyllis Webstad’s book, The Orange Shirt Story.