In 2013, Phyllis Webstad began Orange Shirt Day to commemorate all of the children who were lost in residential schools. In 1973, Phyllis was given an orange shirt by her grandmother to wear on her first day of school in British Columbia. When she arrived at school, this shirt was taken from her. The orange shirt now represents all that has been taken historically from Indigenous peoples – culture, freedom and self-esteem. Today, we take the time to learn about the impact residential schools had, listen to stories from survivors and remember those who were lost. To listen to Phyllis Webstad’s story and the history of Orange Shirt Day click the link below:
Today, September 30, 2021, marks the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. A Federal statutory holiday to recognize the tragic, painful history of residential schools, and to take steps in the reconciliation process. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html
Residential schools began in the early 1870s and the last one closed in 1996. Residential schools were government funded, religious schools founded to conform Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. It is estimated that over 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada.
To learn more about the history of residential schools in Canada visit HERE: https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/history-of-residential-schools/
WAYS TO LEARN
A very important part of the reconciliation process is to recognize the history and ongoing impacts of residential schools in Canada.
The University of Alberta offers a free online course called ‘Indigenous Canada”. This course is informative and a great learning experience for anyone wishing to know more about Indigenous history, as well as current issues Indigenous communities face in Canada. This course is taught from an Indigenous perspective, and although it is not affiliated with CAMM or Automate Canada, it explores key issues for anyone looking to gain a basic familiarity with Indigenous history. Registration can be found HERE: https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html
The University of British Columbia offers a 6-week, free online course titled Reconciliation through Indigenous Education. This course sets to strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples through change in “institutional structures, practices and policies” and registration can be found HERE:
Anyone interested in further courses may be interested in these courses offered at other institutions: https://www.humanrightscareers.com/magazine/3-free-online-courses-on-reconciliation-and-indigenous-education/
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There are many ways to show your support today, and everyday, for Indigenous communities across Canada and for the survivors and children who never made it home. Learn the history, learn traditions, open yourself to different ways of knowing, accept the personal responsibility to reflect upon any assumptions you may have and dedicate yourself to growing and becoming more informed.