September 30th, for the first time ever, we will be acknowledging this day as The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. Unlike most holidays, this day does not call for celebration but instead reflection.
National Day For Truth and Reconciliation
The Government of Canada created the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in June of 2021 and is now recognized as a national holiday. This was in response to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action #80 which stated: “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honor Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Orange Shirt Day
Residential schools were church-run schools where approximately 150,000 Métis, Inuit and First Nations children were sent between the 1860s and the 1990s. The events that took place within the walls of these schools are horrendous. The school’s staff removed Indigenous children from their homes and families and forced them to speak English or French instead of their ancestral languages, disconnecting them from their culture and traditions, forcing them to adopt Christianity in order to assimilate into Canadian society. September 30th falls during the time of year when Indigenous children were taken away to residential school. In 2013, September 30th was launched to be recognized as Orange Shirt Day as a day to honor the approximate 150,000 Indigenous children who survived, the countless children who did not survive the Residential school system. and the horrid things they went through.
The Orange Shirt Story
The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that 6 year old Phyllis Webstad was given to her by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbian 1973. However when Phyllis arrived at school, she was stripped of her clothes, including her brand new orange t-shirt, and given a school uniform to wear instead. Phyllis never wore nor saw her shirt again. She was neglected, abused, made to feel like she didn’t matter and she wasn’t allowed to go home to her family. She recalls every child crying to go home but nobody in the school cared. They were made to feel alone, worthless and like nobody would save them. From then on, the color orange has always reminded Phyllis of this time in her life and how her feelings didn’t seem to matter. Having her orange shirt taken away from her is symbolic of all that was taken from Indigenous peoples as a result of these Indian residential schools.
What Can You Do?
- Wear Orange
- Educate yourself
- Read a book about Indigenous People/Residential Schools
- Indigenous Relations – Insights, Tips and Suggestions To Make Reconciliation a Reality by Bob Joseph with Cythia F. Joseph
- A knock on the Door by Phil Fontaine
- Genocidal Love – A Life After Residential School by Michelle Coupal
- Unreconciled by Jesse Wente
- Call Me Indian by Fred Sasakamoose
We, at Cal LeGrow, will be taking September 30th to remember and honor those who have survived, as well as those who have lost their life far too soon in the hands of the residential school system and to further educate ourselves by reading a book by an Indigenous author.