Oct. 2, 2018

Orange Shirt Day sparks reconciliation and hope

Annual nation-wide event shares stories of residential school survival
The T-shirt design for Orange Shirt Day 2018.

The T-shirt design for Orange Shirt Day 2018.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

On Friday Sept. 28, the University of Calgary’s office of Indigenous engagement celebrated annual Orange Shirt Day (OSD), which falls on Sept. 30. This day coincides with the time of year that children were removed from their homes and sent to residential school. OSD began in 2013 when a residential school survivor in British Columbia, Phyllis Webstad, shared her experience of going to one of these schools. She remembers that her grandmother bought her a brand-new orange shirt to wear on her first day of school.  However, at the school, all of her belongings were taken away, including her special orange shirt. 

One of many events across the country, UCalgary welcomed participants to an event in Hotel Alma to share stories of history and hope. Elder in Residence, Dr. Reg Crowshoe (a residential school survivor from Piikani First Nation), shared his personal memories of going to residential school and the vulnerabilities that were exposed to Indigenous communities. Grade 7 student Leeann Gomez (from the Blood, Chippewa-Cree and Tohono O’odham tribes and granddaughter of survivors) shared her personal spoken-word piece about the legacy of residential school. 

Pam Beebe, Indigenous cultural education and protocol specialist, facilitates conversation at Orange Shirt Day.

Pam Beebe, Indigenous cultural education and protocol specialist, facilitates conversation.

There is now a call for action from Indigenous communities across Canada to make Sept. 30 a national holiday to remember the painful legacy of residential schools and to celebrate the hopes and dreams of our children’s futures. The logo “Every Child Matters” is used as a way to remind us that every child, the ones who never made it home, the ones who survived and the ones yet to be born, all deserve to have a safe and happy childhood. As a community, we will work together to make these dreams a reality and to give hope to the children and grandchildren of our residential school survivors.

The University of Calgary unveiled its Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa' poh' to' p, in November 2017. The strategy is the result of nearly two years of community dialogue and campus engagement, and involved the work of a number of people from the university, Indigenous communities and community stakeholders. Recommendations from the strategy will be implemented in the coming weeks, months and years as we move forward with promise, hope and caring for the future.

Leeann Gomez - Quiet