Liv­ing­stone School Di­vi­sion will hon­our Orange Shirt Day

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - South­ern Al­berta - BY HEATHER CAMERON

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.”

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