It was a dark period in Canadian history, but an event held at the Welland Campus helped shine the light on the impact the residential school system had on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children.
On September 30, students staff and faculty joined together to wear their support on their sleeves – literally – by wearing the specified colour to support Orange Shirt Day on September 30. Hosted by Indigenous Education at the Welland Campus, the event was held to raise awareness of the residential school legacy, honour survivors, remember those lost, and to affirm that everyone matters. An information booth was displayed in the Applied Health Institute foyer to help raise awareness among the college community.
Indigenous student counsellor Jamie Warren noted that many Canadians are unaware of the 100 years of racially-motivated abuse and neglect of Indigenous children in Canada. She felt it was important for staff and students at the College to participate.
“One of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to call upon educators (in consultation with Indigenous peoples) to ensure that the residential school system, amongst other Indigenous issues, are reflected in curriculum and within the educational system,” she said. “As members of the NC community, everyone has a responsibility to not only educate themselves about the legacy but also to become allies and learn how to contribute to and support truth and reconciliation. The Orange Shirt Day is an awareness initiative that opens an opportunity for the NC community to come together in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.”
Warrant noted that the college community was very engaged and supportive of the event. “We had a lot of questions, affirmations of support and offers to donate or contribute in some way,” she said. “The highlight of the day was to see various NC students, faculty and staff come together in their orange shirts to show their support in a group photo. It was a beautiful moment.”
Those who could not attend the photo were encouraged to show their support and share photos via social media using the hashtag #EveryChildMatters or #OrangeShirtDay. The photos will be used to create a collage and will be submitted to the Orange Shirt Day Society to show NC’s support of the residential school legacy.
About Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake in 2013. It was inspired by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad whose clothes, including her new orange shirt that her grandmother bought her for school, were stripped and taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph Mission residential school. September 30 was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools. The federal government estimates at least 150,000 First Nation, Metis, and Inuit students attended residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for the College to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children.