Why wear an orange shirt on September 30th?
To put it simply, it is to commemorate and honour residential school survivors. It is to remember the physical, mental, and sexual abuse they had to ensure, as well as the inter-generational trauma that ensued within Indigenous communities. “The Problematic History of John A. MacDonald,” an article by Angel found in the “Activism” section, addresses these atrocities in more depth.
But why on September 30th? And why an orange shirt?
September 30th was the date chosen, as it was around that time of the year when trucks and buses were used to trespass and kidnap Indigenous children from their communities in order to force them into the horrible living and learning (read: brainwashing and cultural genocide) conditions that characterized these residential schools.
The story of how this became known as “Orange Shirt Day” started when Phyllis Webstad, a six-year-old First Nations girl, entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School wearing an orange shirt instead of the institutional uniform. The shirt was brand new, and, for an Indigenous child growing up in their grandmother’s care, new clothes were extremely rare and prized possessions. Nevertheless, the missionaries remorselessly robbed her of it, replacing it with the mandatory uniform.
Despite only attending the residential school for one year, the effects it had on Ms. Webstad lasted for several years: “I finally get it, that 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.”
Her story is only one among approximately 150 000 – 2 800 of which tell the story of kids aged 4 to 16 who “lost their lives” (i.e. were murdered due to not only the negligence, but the brutality of the Canadian government) in residential schools. Nonetheless, it is the one that inspired a nationwide movement to ensure that every child matters.
So, on Wednesday, September 30th (today), please wear an orange shirt to your zoom classes (and turn your camera on)! It is a simple gesture to show your solidarity with Indigenous communities. VTV has also put together a tribute video with the help of the Vanier community in honour and in memory of those who survived, as well as those who did not.
There will also be a zoom meeting at 1 pm, during Universal Break, that will be organized by the Indigenous Studies Coordinator. Here is the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83770531125?pwd=alVFaW1MMXVORkdBZlA1N0FxNFZFdz09.
Meeting ID: 837 7053 1125
By Sophie Dufresne