Hard­ships of First Na­tions chil­dren felt at res­i­den­tial schools re­mem­bered with an­nual Or­ange Shirt Day

Medicine Hat News - - UP FRONT - TIM KALI­NOWSKI

Or­ange Shirt Day, a day to re­mem­ber and ac­knowl­edge the bit­ter legacy of res­i­den­tial schools in Canada, was held at many lo­cal schools on Fri­day.

The ac­tual day falls on Sept. 30, and was started by Phyliss Web­stad when she re­lated how she was so proud of an or­ange shirt she re­ceived from her grand­mother, whom she lived with on the Dog Creek re­serve, just be­fore go­ing off to St. Joseph Mis­sion res­i­den­tial school as a child. Upon ar­rival at the school the shiny shirt was abruptly stripped off by school staff and re­placed by a dark uni­form.

The story has be­come sym­bolic of all that was lost for res­i­den­tial school chil­dren, says Raevon Gehring, First Na­tions, Inuit, Métis co-or­di­na­tor for the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“How would that make a child feel?” asks Gehring. “Know­ing they were so proud of that, and then to be stripped of it. The or­ange shirt sym­bol­izes the losses First Na­tions have suf­fered in res­i­den­tial schools. We sur­round that thought in our schools with the dis­cus­sion for stu­dents that ev­ery child mat­ters. That’s very im­por­tant dis­cus­sion for ev­ery­one to ac­knowl­edge here in Canada. That is why we mark this day, to cre­ate greater aware­ness.”

The mes­sage was cer­tainly clear for St. Michael’s School Grade 3 stu­dent Rae­lyn Ku­tanzi.

“Ev­ery child is loved,” she said when asked what Or­ange Shirt Day means to her. “The or­ange shirt means ev­ery kid mat­ters. We have lots of dif­fer­ent kids at our school and we all get along with each other. We are like a big fam­ily.”

St. Mike’s Grade 2 stu­dent Tyrell Manas said Or­ange Shirt Day made him think about his own be­liefs.

“Ev­ery child mat­ters. Je­sus made ev­ery­one the same,” he said.

NEWS PHOTO TIM KALI­NOWSKI

Stu­dents all over the city marked Or­ange Shirt Day to raise aware­ness of the neg­a­tive ef­fects of Canada's res­i­den­tial school sys­tem on First Na­tions peo­ples. Pic­tured: Stu­dents at St. Michael's Ele­men­tary School show off their Or­ange Shirt Day T-shirts and wristbands on Fri­day.

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