Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc invites Kamloops residents to take part in Orange Shirt Day

Back in the '70s there was a little girl by the name of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad who was about to start her first day at the St. Joseph's Mission residential school in Williams Lake.

In preparation for this, her grandmother brought her to a store and told her to pick out whatever she wanted. The little girl picked out a bright orange shirt that had laces in the front.

When she got to school, Webstad had her hair cut and was stripped of her clothes, including the bright orange shirt she loved so much. She never saw the shirt again.

This is the origin of Orange Shirt Day (Sept. 30), a day which honours Indigenous people, reconciliation and those who survived the residential schools across Canada.

Orange shirt'Every Child Matters' is the slogan being used to honour both residential school survivors and those who did not make it.

Indigenous nations have been working to get Orange Shirt Day recognized nationally.

Why Sept. 30? It was the time of year trucks and buses would enter First Nations communities to take the children away from their families and bring them into residential schools where they'd be stripped of their identities, culture, language and traditions.

While the day has not yet been officially recognized on a national level, many across the country still recognize it.

Jo-anne Gottfriedson, a member of Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and chair of the executive board for the Day Scholar Class Action, says the day is not only about healing within her own people, but it's about educating non-Indigenous people too.

“As (residential school survivors) move forward in their healing journey, it is important that not only Indigenous people but the general public as well be part of the process,” she tells KamloopsMatters. “It doesn’t work to stick a silk scarf or Band-Aid over a big issue.”

This year Sept. 30 falls on a Sunday, so Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc is hosting their annual ceremony on Friday, Sept. 28 instead. They invite everyone, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, to come out and take part in the festivities, hear the stories and meet their local community and learn from one another.

There will be a smudging ceremony, followed by prayer, honouring ceremonies, bannock and more. It's all happening at Moccasin Square Garden from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Those who can’t make it are still encouraged to wear orange to show support.

For those who would like to hear more about the story that inspired Orange Shirt Day, you can purchase Webstad’s children's book The Orange Shirt Story, which tells her tale in an educational but child-friendly format.




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