Wear orange this Wednesday to show your support for survivors of Residential Schools


Every year on Sept. 30, Canadians are encouraged to wear orange shirts to honour residential school survivors.

Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at a residential school. Her story was told for the first time in May 2013. Since then it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion going on all aspects of residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for Indigenous People, local governments, schools, and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

Here is Phyllis’ story in her own words: 

I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned six years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!

When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.

I was 13.8 years old and in Grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like. With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother.

I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!

I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories.

If you are an Indigenous member of the Defence Team, consider joining the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG). The DAAG is comprised of military and civilian members of the Defence Team. The aim of the DAAG and other Defence Advisory Groups (Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities and the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group) is to advise leadership on issues relevant to their membership.

For more information about Orange Shirt Day or to join the DAAG, contact Marie Ormiston, Civilian Co-Chair or PO1 Steve Morrison, Military Co-Chair.


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