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Thursday , 22 October 2020
Orange Shirt Day. Image credit: teentalk.ca.

Orange Shirt Day remembers victims of residential schools

Orange Shirt Day will be taking place around the Lakeland with a combination of virtual and in-person events this week.

The St. Paul event is being organized by Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc., which has programs to support survivors of the Indian Residential Schools system and their descendants.

Allan Steinhauer is a support worker for the IRS program and involved in the Orange Shirt Day march taking place on Sept. 30.

“It’s a day to honour residential school survivors,” said Steinhauer. “We need to not forget the history of residential schools, of the survivors that have gone through it.”

Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 after Phyllis Webstad, a survivor of the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia, shared the story of her new orange shirt being taken away from her on her first day of residential school in 1973.

“The color 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,” wrote Webstad on the official website.

According to Steinhauer, it’s important for everyone to take the time to mark the day and participate because it brings out the history.

“They could learn from it, and understand what our previous survivors from residential school had gone through. It’s a reminder and it’s part of history,” said Steinhauer.

The St. Paul March will start at the UFO Landing Pad at 11 a.m. with a prayer. Drummers and singers will then lead the participants to the St. Paul Senior Citizens Centre at 11:30 a.m.

After lunch, there will be a series of brief presentations by Cameron Alexis and Doreen Waskewitch-Rosa, as well as residential school survivors Theresa Bull and Harvey Youngchief.

According to Steinhauer, there will be displays with resources and information at the Senior Citizens Centre. He said everyone is invited to wear an orange shirt for the march, but “we do have some orange shirts we’ll be bringing out. But if people have them we’d like for them to wear them.”

In a statement, assistant superintendent for St. Paul Education Patricia Gervais said the division strives “to respect, learn, value and honor Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.”

“Moving forward with truth and reconciliation, St. Paul Education makes it our goal to select practices that embrace and validate Indigenous teachings and experiences.”

“During the week of September 28-October 2, students in Division schools will participate in a variety of Orange Shirt Day learning activities, such as participating in an online youth event sponsored by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, making miniature orange shirt beaded keychains, creating Orange Shirt Day posters, looking at Orange Shirt Day videos, or reading related children’s stories.

“Staff and students in many Division schools will also wear an orange shirt or even an orange non-medical face mask to mark this day.”

Northern Lights School Division is taking a similar approach with schools choosing how to participate individually and taking advantage of online activities hosted by the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.

“Some of them have already been doing artwork and things like that with an Orange Shirt Day scene. And then we have our division orange shirts this year,” said Nicole Garner, commincations officer for NLPS.

“We had an Orange Shirt Day contest in May for students to submit artwork for an orange t shirt.”

Surrounding municipalities like the Town of Bonnyville declared September 30 Orange Shirt Day.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.