While they may be just orange shirts, the meaning and symbolism behind them is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together to remember and commemorate those who experienced residential schools in Canada.
Western’s Indigenous Services held its own Orange Shirt Day today to educate people and promote awareness about the residential school system the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does.
Students, staff and faculty wrote messages of remembrance and hope, which were put up in the Indigenous Services office. The morning event also included an awareness walk around campus.
Orange Shirt Day is a movement that began in 2013, based on the experience of then six-year Phyllis Webstad who entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC, in 1973. Webstad was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school, but was quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.
While she only attended for one year, the impact of that experience affected Webstad’s life for many years.