Like Phyllis Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, I had just turned six when I started school. I assume I was excited, probably a little nervous, but I don’t remember. Phyllis does.
She remembers showing up at her school, excited to be there, proud to be wearing the new orange shirt her grandmother had bought her. She remembers standing there with her classmates, all of them scared and crying as their clothes were stripped off them. She remembers never seeing her treasured orange shirt again.
In 2013, Phyllis’s experience inspired the inception of Orange Shirt Day. A day to recognize and raise awareness of the horrific history and legacy of the Residential School System.
This past Thursday, on September 30, Canada marked the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. A day to remember the children lost, the families shattered. To reflect on the injustice that exists to this day. To find a way forward—together.
A way that includes sending people like Blake Desjarlais to Ottawa. Blake is Metís, speaks fluent Cree, and is the first two-spirit member of parliament.
A way that appreciates the talent of actors like Kiawenti:io Tarbell. An up-and-coming star at only 15, Kiawenti:io is Mohawk from the Akwesasne community in Ontario.
A way that applauds the magic in the voices of singers like Mary Nahwegahbow. An athlete and musician, Mary hails from the Whitefish River Nation 500 kilometres North of Toronto.
A way through the heartbreak of the past into a brighter future.