School children all over the province are wearing orange t-shirts on Friday to recognize and honour all the aboriginal children who were taken from their homes and forced into residential schools.
It is the first “Orange Shirt Day” ever held in Saskatchewan. It all began in B.C. three years ago when a First Nations woman told the story about what happened to her on the first day of residential school in the early 1970s.
Phyllis Webstad was just six years old. Her grandmother had bought her a shiny orange shirt for the first day of school. When she went to class authorities forced her to strip and put on clothes they provided. It was the last time she ever saw the orange shirt. It took her 40 years to talk about. She recalls the shame in a video she has posted on YouTube.
“I wanted to go home to granny, but I had to stay there for 300 sleeps,” she said. “No matter how much all of us little kids cried, it didn’t matter, no one listened to us, our feelings didn’t matter and we didn’t matter.”
Last spring, the Saskatchewan School boards Association passed a resolution calling on the government to recognize Orange Shirt Day in Saskatchewan. Association president, Connie Bailey, says it is part of the healing and learning process.
“We need to do our part in our education system to enable that reconciliation to take place,” she said.
“This is one way we can start those discussions about what happened in our residential schools in the province and around the country.”
Events are being held all around the province on Friday involving school children, politicians, and universities.