Today students in School District 54 will be wearing orange shirts.
It’s in memory of the residential school system and the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor, who had her orange shirt taken from her while attending St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake.
That shirt, a gift from Webastd’s grandmother when she was six-years-old, inspired ‘Orange Shirt Day,’ remembering the loss of her beloved shirt, and more importantly her cultural identity.
It’s symbolic of the struggles, pain and loss of cultural identity that plague First Nations communities.
District 54 Principal for Aboriginal Student Services Birdy Markert says today, and the orange shirts that read ‘Every Child Matters,’ is about ongoing reconciliation in the schools.
“(students)are going to learn about loss of language, loss of culture and the fact that First Nations communities are still struggling to survive this impact of residential schools.
“It’s a very painful part of First Nations history across Canada. It’s great that our students get to remember that there are survivors who live in our community who went to residential school who are still suffering.”
Markert also says the curriculum is working to keep education an important part of reconciliation.
“And with the new curriculum we have a bit of an introductory in grade 5. We still have our grade 7s learning about residential schools,” along with grade 9 students, says Markert.
Social studies Teacher at Smithers Secondary School, Jon Goalder, says indigenous students are often shy about their cultural pride.
“I would say First Nations kids are still reluctant to speak with pride about their culture in a classroom setting. We also want to do justice to them as we’re teaching courses (and) make sure that their history is being recognized as well.”
As a part of Culture Days starting today, he will be teaching the impacts of globalization on indigenous communities internationally.
The Friendship Centre will have a walk at Bovill Square today along with Culture Days all weekend.