Livingstone School Division will honour Orange Shirt Day
Sept. 30 is a dark day in First Nations history, but Orange Shirt Day will bring some light to that darkness.
Orange Shirt Day began as the story of Phyllis Webstad, who arrived at residential school with a new orange shirt that she loved, but her shirt was taken away and never returned.
“The purpose of Orange Shirt Day is to honor the children who survived Residential Schools and those who did not,” Sandra Lamouche, the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Success Coordinator for the Livingstone Range School Division, said. “It is a day to listen, learn, and celebrate Aboriginal culture.”
Lamouche says Orange Shirt Day is on Sept. 30 because that is when First Nations children were taken from their homes to attend Residential Schools against their will decades ago.
The division itself will acknowledge the day Friday, Sept. 28, but some schools have chosen Oct. 1 to recognize the day so it can be acknowledged during the school week.
Webstad says five schools participated in Orange Shirt Day last year and an estimated seven schools, plus the Central Office staff, will participate this year.
"Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013," Lamouche said. “Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.”
Fort Macleod schools will be celebrating the resiliency of First Nations people at an assembly on Monday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m.
Other schools are planning schoolbased and classroom based activities.
Webstad says that the division has purchased a few copies of The Orange
Shirt Story book which was just published this year and the book will be read to classes in several schools within the division.
“I think the staff ensures that every child matters throughout the whole school year through everyday interactions, from learning the names of all students to taking a whole school approach to student learning and success,” Lamouche said. “It is a common practice and belief that all teachers and staff are responsible for all students.”
Lamouche says June 2018 was the 10 year anniversary of the Residential
School Apology by the federal government. The last residential school closed in 1996, Lamouche says, and there are many students from Piikani and Kainai Nations who attended, and are now 36 years old and older.
“Before this day, nobody talked about residential schools,” Lamouche said. “All of my grandparents attended these schools, yet I never heard about them until after the apology. My grandparents carried this experience and trauma with them until they passed away.”
Residential schools, Lamouche says, are not just a thing of the past, as First Nations people her age and older than her who attended the school faced immense trauma that they still carry.
“Students that I have had the opportunity to discuss residential schools with understand that it is not fair to treat others differently based on appearance or any other reason,” Lamouche said. “I think part of the reason to promote 'every child matters' is to ensure something like this never occurs again in our country.”
The trauma that residential school survivors carry within themselves, Lamouche says, may have been passed and still be passed along to their children through lack of parenting skills, inability to express emotions, feelings of despair, and destructive behavior, which includes First Nations children growing up feeling like they don't matter. Lamouche herself is a First Nations mother and this situation is something she is highly concerned and passionate about.
“This is not only about First Nations; this is Canadian history,” Lamouche said.
“The Canadian government created the policies and the Indian agents, parish priests or RCMP collected the children. It is our shared history and it is important to understand the past to understand our present and guide us into the future. We are witnessing the first generation of students learning about this unfortunate history in schools for the first time. I think we should celebrate that we can change and grow together as a society and be excited at the opportunity we have to create something better.”