Orange Shirt Day was established in 2013. It is an event that grew from Phyllis Webstad sharing her story of having an orange shirt taken from her at the age of six when she arrived at a residential school. Her mother gave her the shirt to celebrate her first day at residential school. She never did get to wear it. Since that time, September 30 has been a day for awareness, understanding and conversation about the effects of residential schools. A video of Phyillis Webstad telling their story is available here: Phyllis Webstad Orange Shirt Day Presentation – YouTube
This year brings new attention and recognition for Orange Shirt Day.
In May, it was announced 215 unmarked graves were discovered at the site of former Kamloops (Tk’emlups) Residential School. Since that time thousands more have been found and the search of former residential schools continues. The unmarked graves and mistreatment of Indigenous children at these residential schools was known by the communities, and has spurred further conversations and action about truth and reconciliation across the country. It is heartbreaking to know of the discovery, and to gain a better understanding of the pain of Indigenous people and their communities. You can also find a joint statement from T’esóts’en (Patrick Kelly), current Cultural Advisor and past Board Chair, and Hayalthkin’geme (Carey Newman), Director of the Victoria Foundation, following the discovery of the 215 unmarked graves here.
In June, the federal government announced Sept. 30 as a new annual statutory day to commemorate the history and ongoing trauma caused by residential schools and to honour those who were lost and the survivors, families and communities who continue to grieve. The Province of BC has followed suit and has also made this a provincial statutory day. The announcement from the Province of BC is available here.
The Victoria Foundation encourages staff and our partners to know and understand the truth of our collective history as British Columbians. We hope that in your own way, all will find their own ways to honour those lost and the survivors. While in-person events are limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Victoria Orange Shirt Day Committee is participating in two events. One is for kids in collaboration with the Royal BC Museum at 11 a.m., and the other is a video production with the City of Victoria. Details about the events are available here.
The Victoria Foundation is committed to reconciliation through learning and action, and will continue to work with our Indigenous partners across the province and country.