Orange Shirt Day began as a result of a residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt being taken away from her on her first day of school at the St Joseph Mission residential school, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. Sept 30th was the date chosen for Orange Shirt Day, as it was the time of year when approximately 150,000 children were removed from their families and communities and taken to one of the 139 residential schools that operated in Canada from 1880 to 1996. The date was also chosen to facilitate school systems planning for events on that day so that all school children will learn the history of the residential school legacy. When September 30th falls on the weekend, schools and other organizations typically honour Orange Shirt Day on the Friday before the 30th.
The logo was created by Martha Kilcup and Rose Roberts, sisters that attended Residential School. The circle in the logo represents the survivor, family, and community. The circle was broken and caused trauma and heartbreak for generations by the residential school legacy. One set of adults represent the parents, one set represent the grandparents – both of whom lost their roles with the loss of the children. The grandparents could not pass on their wisdom and knowledge to the next generation. The parents lost their parental roles, as well as their roles of aunt and uncle. The adults have their backs turned away to represent the sadness, the shame and the loss. One set of adults are not holding hands and this represents the breakdown of family stability for those parents who lost their children, as well as those survivors who had not learned how to have healthy relationships due to their trauma. Many children died (est. 6,000) while in the residential schools, and the crosses represent those that never made it back home. Entire families were sent to these schools, and older siblings who had the responsibility to look out for the younger ones were separated and not allowed to fulfil their roles. Brothers and sisters were not allowed to talk to each other. The breaks between the children represents the separation of siblings, as well as the isolation and loneliness experienced by the children when they were taken from their families, homes and communities. The children also represent the inner child within adult survivors, many of whom are still hurting and lost.
For more information, visit www.orangeshirtday.org
The University Library offers a Residential Schools LibGuide resource.
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