Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
Students on Haida Gwaii will be marking Orange Shirt Day this September 30. As a part of the new school curriculum students from kindergarten to grade 12 will be learning about residential school history and the legacy that once tried to “kill the Indian in the child”.
Bright orange t-shirts designed by artist Billy NC Yovanovich will be provided to staff and students and teachers are being encouraged to teach appropriate class lessons.
Many children were taken from Haida Gwaii and sent to four residential schools in Alberta, Vancouver Island, and the lower mainland.
Orange Shirt Day recognizes former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s first experience of residential school that left a lifelong negative impact on her. On arrival at school she had a new shiny orange shirt taken away from her at St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school in Williams Lake.
“I never saw it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine!” she says.
“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” she states.
Across Haida Gwaii and throughout Canada a renewed conversation about reconciliation has begun in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the federal government’s acknowledgment and apology of past wrong doings.