Students at H.J. Cody High School and Steffie Woima Elementary wore orange shirts Sept. 29 to bring visibility and awareness to the residential school experience. The Grade 8 Renaissance Team at Fox Run School created lesson plans for the teachers and cut out paper shirts for students to decorate.
According to the official Orange Shirt Day website the date was chosen “because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.” The official day is Sept. 30 but the site encourages people to organize events around the date as it works for them.
The day is intended to be a time to “witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.”
“This is the first time H. J. Cody recognized Orange Shirt Day and I feel as an educator and the principal of the school it is important,” said Principal Mike Garrow. “It’s an opportunity to recognize and support the survivors of residential schools and for acknowledging those who did not survive. I think the bigger picture is to continue educating our students on anti-bullying and anti-racism.”
École Steffie Woima School students held an afternoon assembly in the gym where teacher, Becky Beagan and students presented a blanket to Elder Pauline Beagan who attended a residential school in Kamloops. The blanket was made with squares representing each one of the classes. Elder Beagan donated the blanket back to the school for display and suggested they use it in the S.T.E.P.S room to “turn struggles into snuggles.”
The story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story was shared in the assembly to recognize the damage done by the residential school system and to remind the students that “everyone around us matters.” On her first day at the residential school as a six-year-old, Phyllis wore a new orange shirt that was taken away from her.
The only guideline for decorating the paper shirts at Fox Run School was for the shirts to be orange. The students were encouraged to express how they felt about residential schools and how they’ll remember the students of residential schools. The t-shirts were hung in the foyer on a clothesline at Fox Run School.
“I believe that it is very important that all students have a good understanding of the residential schools and all that our First Nations people had to go through,” one of the students shared.
In an official joint statement the Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan and Minister of Education David Eggen said:
“Our government is enhancing curriculum to ensure all K-12 students and teachers learn about the history of residential schools, along with First Nations, Metis and Inuit history, perspectives and contributions.
We know how important it is to build understanding of the tragic history of residential schools. As we move forward on the path of reconciliation, our education system can become a place that contributes to healing through knowledge and learning.”