September 30 is Orange Shirt Day, a day to recognize and remember the damage caused by Canada’s residential school system. Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake BC. The event is based on the story of Phyllis Jack Webstad, who attended the St. Joseph Mission Indian Residential School in 1973.
At six years old Phyllis was proud to pick out a new school outfit at the local store, including a bright orange shirt with string lace. When Phyllis arrived at school, all her clothes and personal belongings were taken from her, including her shirt. She never saw it again. You can read Phyllis’ story in her own words here. Webstad has also published a children’s book, The Orange Shirt Story, about her childhood experience.
The first Orange Shirt Day was held in 2013. The event occurs in late September, the time when Indigenous children were collected from their communities and taken to residential schools. It is estimated that 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools.
Students, educators, and staff in schools across Canada will be wearing orange shirts in the spirit of reconciliation September 30. Orange Shirt Day is a valuable opportunity to learn about the legacy of Canada’s residential schools and to reflect on ways we can unite in a journey of reconciliation.