September 30th is Canada's annual "Orange Shirt Day" in recognition of the harms done by the residential school system. It's a day when all Canadians should tune in and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. It's a day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, as well as the many others who suffered effects. It's a day about self-esteem and well being. WEAR ORANGE on September 30 to show your support.
 
The date, September 30, was chosen because that was the time of year the trucks and buses would enter Indigenous communities to “collect” the children and deliver them to their harsh new reality of cultural assimilation, abuse, shame and deprivation.
 
A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY
Many Canadians remain poorly informed about the history of residential schools and the generational after-effects, so here is a great chance to learn by attending a 1.5 hour webinar presented by the Rotary Club of Pickering and the Rotary-inspired HIP organization (Honouring Indigenous People). It's on September 30, 2020  from 4pm to 5.30pm. Details and pre-registration are here
 
ABOUT ORANGE SHIRT DAY...
 
Orange Shirt Day is a movement that officially began in 2013 but in reality it began in 1973 when six year old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school – new clothes being a rare and wonderful thing for a First Nation girl growing up in her grandmother’s care - but the Mission Oblates quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform, and she never saw her orange shirt again.
 
Phyllis (Jack) Webstad tells her story here in her own words... 
 
"I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school! 

When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! 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. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
 
I was 13.8 years old and in grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like. With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother.

I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!

I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories."
 
Today ...
Phyllis Webstad is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed Secwepemc and Irish/French heritage, was born in Dog Creek, and lives in Williams Lake, BC. Today, Phyllis is married, has one son, a step-son and five grandchildren.  She is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society and tours the country telling her story and raising awareness about the impacts of the residential school system.  She has now published two books, the "Orange Shirt Story" and "Phyllis's Orange Shirt" for younger children. The Orange Shirt Society provides a wide array of Teaching Resources

Phyllis earned diplomas in Business Administration from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and in Accounting from Thompson Rivers University. Phyllis received the 2017 TRU Distinguished Alumni Award for her unprecedented impact on local, provincial, national and international communities through the sharing of her orange shirt story. 
 
orange-shirt-dayWhile Phyllis only attended residential school for one year, the impact affected her life for many years. Her story is the nucleus for what has become a national movement to recognize the experience of survivors of Indian residential schools, honour them, and show a collective commitment to ensure that every child matters. 
 
The initiative calls for every Canadian to wear an orange shirt on September 30 in the spirit of healing and reconciliation. 
 
Watch this 3-minute video that includes Phyllis' story. 
 
 
 
 
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