Today is Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters: Remembering Residential Schools

September 30, 2015

Published September 30, 2015

WILLIAMS LAKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA—It is true “one person can still make a difference.” Such is the case with Phyllis Webstad. A couple years ago, she decided to wear orange on September 30 as a way to remember her time attending Indian residential school in Canada. Her gesture caught hold across Canada.

Now, September 30 is known as Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters.

Webstad began wearing orange on September 30th because of the color’s significance to her on her first day of attending residential school.  Phyllis Webstad’s grandmother took her to buy a new outfit for her first day of school. Even though she was only six years old, her grandmother allowed Phyllis to pick out a shirt to wear to school. Part of the outfit, she selected was an orange shirt. Excited about attending school, she wore the orange shirt with pride.

Upon arrival that first day of school many years ago now, she was given a uniform to wear. She had to give up her new orange shirt and never saw it again. The uniform replaced it.

Phyllis Webstad

Phyllis Webstad

“The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no cared and how I felt I was worth nothing,” reflects Webstad decades later about her experiences at the Indian residential school.  “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

The military-like Indian residential schools for were to First Nations Native students were what Indian boarding schools were to American Indian students in the United States. The children were taken from their family homes and placed in schools, many times, hundreds of miles from home. It was an era of assimilation, with the goal to “kill the Indian, save the man.”

“This is the third year for Orange Shirt Day and it is gaining in momentum….I remain humbled and honoured that my story can reach so many and be a vehicle for change,” Webstad posted on her Facebook page last night.

Getting geared up for Orange Shirt Day - Every Child Matters

Getting geared up for Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters

Because of Phyliss Webstad millions of Native people will remember their time attending the schools–or that of a relative who attended the residential/boarding schools by wearing orange today.

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