Many people are wearing orange shirts this week, especially today for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A day that is also known as Orange Shirt Day.
Jennifer Wood is with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. While she presented at an event in Steinbach this week, Wood commented on the number of orange shirts she saw in the audience.
"When you’re wearing your orange shirt, to me you’re wearing a bit of justice,” she said. “You’re actually acknowledging those truths of the legacy of the residential school system. And you’re not afraid to wear them. So, I really like to see that. You’re honouring and you’re respecting survivors, and you’re acknowledging that that did happen to them when you wear that orange shirt.
“I live in River Park South with my husband. And last year in May, in my cul-de-sac in the big windows, there were five orange shirts hanging in the living room windows. And I thought ‘Wow! This is really, really significant.’ This is reconciliation. This is saying that I honour you, that I acknowledge you, and that I am standing with you.
September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children's sense of self-esteem and well being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
Phyllis (Jack) Webstad's story in her own words...
I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!
When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
I was 13 years old and in grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like. With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother.
I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the 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. Even with all the work I’ve done!
I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories. (orangeshirtday.org)