Seventeen members of CRD, City Council, SD28, community members and the First Nations community attended the first ever Orange Shirt Day in council chambers at City Hall, Monday. Planning began last year after the St. Joseph Mission (Cariboo Residential School just outside Williams Lake) commemoration and is a continuation of the joint commitment to ongoing reconciliation for all those who attended residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is a movement to create awareness and education around the residential school experience.
Sept. 30 was chosen as it is the beginning of the school year and symbolic of children sent away to residential schools. The orange shirt relates to one survivor’s memory of receiving a very special orange shirt for the beginning of the school year, only to have it promptly taken from her upon arrival at the residential school. She sees this as representative of loss of her individuality and self-worth and becomes a symbol of defiance and a reminder that every child matters. Phyllis Webstad’s story of her orange shirt is also a symbol of the loss of belonging and belongings faced by generations of residential school children.
During the gathering in council chambers, First Nations elder Doreen Patrick spoke of the need to remember and encourage those who experienced residential school to find healing and not be ashamed of their experiences.
She also called for a monument to residential school students and suggested the museum could possibly have a project on the issue.
First Nations attendees Tanya Hjorth and Metis Tony Goulet spoke of their respective parents who attended residential schools but had difficulty speaking of their experiences to their children.
Both said their own lives
had been affected by their parents’ treatment in residential school.
Patty Kimpton, SD28 principal of education, spoke of the work the school district is undertaking in teaching about the significance of the orange shirt and a unit on residential schools.
Several publications were recommended to enhance the understanding of the First Nations people and specifically the residential school experience.
Ellie Peters’ book We are telling our stories for our children and grandchildren not only speaks of the residential schools but also traditions, culture and the recent past for the Southern Carrier people as told by them.
After some discussion of possible future projects, each person expressed their thoughts and feelings about Orange Shirt Day.
City Council passed a resolution later Monday night during the regular council meeting that in honour of Orange Shirt Day and its objectives, council will work with other government parties and First Nations groups to support the suggestions by Patrick for a permanent museum display and community monument. The resolution was forwarded to all interested parties to begin discussions.