Kenya Fessler is in Grade 2 at Davin School in Regina and participated in Orange Shirt Day. (Nichole Huck/CBC) Friday is Orange Shirt Day for many organizations across the province who are marking the experience of former residential school students.
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation elder in Williams Lake, B.C. On her first day at St. Joseph Mission residential school, her orange shirt was taken away.
Orange Shirt Day is Sept. 30 but because it falls on a Saturday this year, many organizations, including Regina Public Schools and Saskatoon Public Schools, are honouring the day with activities and education on Friday.
Last year was the first year Saskatchewan school boards officially recognized the event.
“It is important to build understanding about this history of our province and country,” Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, said in a news release.
Regina and Saskatoon public schools said they will participate “in a commitment to ensure that every child matters.” Staff and students will wear the shirts throughout the day. There are many variations of the orange shirt. (Shana Dion) Regina Catholic Schools chose to participate on Monday. Each school has planned unique events including a buffalo blessing and reveal, mini feasts and special guests.
Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said in a statement that “while the history of residential schools is embedded throughout our elementary and high school curricula, Orange Shirt Day provides an important opportunity for students and school communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation,” she said.
The next few days will be marked with events across the province in commemoration.
Battleford Industrial School was the first residential school in Canada to be sponsored and largely set up by the federal government. Today, residents of the Battlefords will join residential school survivors and their families for a community walk followed by prayer and several other activities throughout North Battleford.
The YWCA in Regina will take part in an Orange Shirt Day event taking place in Victoria Park.from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. The event includes guest speakers, a short walk and a round dance.
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