Orange Shirt Day is a day where we as people take the time to honour and remember the traumatic experiences that had taken place within Residential Schools, where innocent children were taken away from their families and were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Through Residential schools, it was the intent that Indigenous children were to be isolated and taken away from their families, and to be assimilated into the dominant culture, an act of cultural genocide. In addition, through these residential schools, it is estimated that the number of deaths was close to 6000. Keep in mind, that these schools are only one of the many forms of genocide that was brought against Indigenous peoples of North America. The number of Indigenous people have shown to drastically decrease after settlers came into North America. To this day, Residential and Indian Day schools have had a very negative impact on Indigenous people, and will continue to have a negative impact on our people, because these schools have led many of our people down a path, where we have lost a sense of who we really are.
We wear orange because of Phyllis Webstad. She was a young girl forced out of her new orange shirt when she was taken from her family and implemented into these schools. She associated the colour orange with the trauma she faced from the schools and she has made it her goal to take the ownership of her orange shirt back. We wear orange for Phyllis , and for the many children who had their innocence taken in the residential schooling system.
These schools were in place up until 1996, only 24 years ago. Stated as followed by Nicholas Keller; “Connecting this information to my life, my grandparents, uncle, and my mother all attended Indian Day school on Walpole Island, as the school operated from 1867-1990. I am the first generation of my family not attending these schools.” This shows that the youth can be the first generation.
The oppression against Indigenous people continues today, which has been personally experienced by man , through education, sports, and society. We as Indigenous people are given unfair opportunities amongst society, and are expected to keep silent, and not voice our concerns. The silence we are judged by non-Indigenous society to uphold is just a continuation of the intent Residential schools had on our people. Our message for any Indigenous person that may be reading this is to keep fighting! The oppressive experiences we go through as Indigenous people hurt, but we must let that be our motivation to continue going through life and to achieve our goals! These experiences are what make us as Indigenous people resilient.
We wear orange for Phyllis , and for the many Indigenous people who have been impacted and affected by the schools, both people of attendance, and people who are affected through intergenerational trauma of residential schools. Thank you for honouring Orange Shirt Day!
Nicholas Keller and Sydney Yott
Indigenous Relations Working Group Co-Chairs 2020-2021
OSTA-AECO is a nonprofit organization comprised entirely of current and former student trustees who volunteer on a part-time basis to advocate for the improvement of public education in the province of Ontario.
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