University of Saskatchewan Huskies rookie Dezaray Wapass races in the Sled Dog Open in Saskatoon’s Victoria Park. (Submitted) University of Saskatchewan cross country runners found a unique way to honour residential school survivors.
The team hosted its annual Sled Dog Open in Saskatoon’s Victoria Park on Saturday.
The Huskies raced up and down the hills in specially-made orange racing tops. They were showing support for Orange Shirt Day, a day which honours residential school survivors.
One of them was 18-year-old rookie Dezaray Wapass, whose father and other relatives were sent to residential school.
"Wearing that singlet and having our Huskie logo on it too meant the whole world to me," Wapass said.
Huskies assistant coach Jamie Epp says the team has been working with Indigenous clubs and athletes for several years.
A board member from Saskatchewan Aboriginal Track and Field gave them an information sheet about the day, and they discussed residential schools as a team.
Epp said this is one way the team can honour the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was grateful for the feedback received from Indigenous elders who watched the race.
"They were really happy we were doing it. I did try to talk to a lot of them. They were thanking us for doing another way to bring the awareness," he said.
Epp says the Huskies plan to wear orange at their race every year — and he said other teams are considering it, too.
Other Saskatoon events are also taking part. The day after the Huskies raced, several hundred runners wore orange race shirts at the EY River Run Classic five and 10 kilometre race.
Elders and residential school survivors were seated at the start line. Following an honour song, survivor Eugene Arcand spoke to the crowd.
Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 and is named for residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad. Webstad had her orange shirt taken from her by staff at her residential school.
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