Schools in the Valley took part in Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 to remember what happened to First Nations students at residential schools across Canada.
“All around our district, all the schools are starting to recognize this day…it’s an important day,” said Richard Samuel, Nuu-chah-nulth education worker at Eighth Avenue Learning Centre. “It’s a learning opportunity for students and teachers to know about the residential schools.”
Aside from wearing orange, students and teachers at Eight Avenue Learning Centre showed their support for the history of residential schools by stamping black-painted hand prints on a large orange banner to symbolize “every child matters.”
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation elder in Williams Lake, B.C., who attended her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in 1973.
During her first day of school at age six, Webstad wore a new orange shirt that was later ripped off her back.
“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,” Webstad said in a statement on orangeshirtday.org.
On Sept. 30, 2013, Webstad organized the first Orange Shirt Day in Williams Lake to recognize the pain and suffering Canada’s residential schools have caused to generations of Indigenous families and their communities.
“It’s important for the students and teachers to know it’s Canadian history but also First Nations history. Its affected all Canadians,” Samuel said.