CANADA – Today is the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day commemorates both survivors of the residential school system and the thousands and thousands of children who were taken from their families and sent to residential schools, never to return home.
According to Reconciliation Canada, over 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to residential schools. The organization estimates that 90 to 100% of children attending the schools experienced severe physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They also report that the residential schools had a mortality rate of 40-60%.
To mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, people are wearing orange shirts to show their support for Indigenous people across Canada. The tradition of wearing orange shirts was established based on Phyllis Webstad’s story.
Phyllis Webstad’s Story
Webstad was a young Indigenous girl taken from her family and sent to a residential school, where they took away her personal belongings, including her new orange shirt.
“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt!” reads Phyllis’ story on the official Orange Shirt Day website.
“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,” Phyllis’ story continues.
Webstad is the Founder and Ambassador of the Orange Shirt Society and spends her time traveling across Canada sharing her experiences and raising awareness of the impact of Canada’s residential school system.
The Legacy of Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day is celebrated on September 30th for a special reason. According to Indigenous Affairs Ontario, the date was chosen because this was the time of year that Indigenous children were taken from their families and homes.
“It is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come,” reads the official website.
Online people are sharing their thoughts about Orange Shirt Day and Truth and Reconciliation.
“Orange Shirt Day should not be called or turned into a “celebration”. It is our Remembrance Day. We honour and observe. This day represents many lost children and widespread intergenerational trauma. Its a time to learn and reflect. #EveryChildMatters” shared one person online.
“Today is Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. It’s an opportunity to honour Survivors and to reflect and take part in difficult conversations on our shared path to reconciliation,” shared Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Marci Ien.
Let us know in the comments, how are you commemorating the day?