Orange Shirt Day will look a bit different this year

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. Area schools and other organizations often have events to remember residential school survivors. With health protocols this year, schools are getting creative.

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School is still working out Orange Shirt Day plans, says principal Angela White.

In an email, High Prairie School Division Indigenous Education Coach told The Leader:

“In the past, we have held assemblies and facilitated group activities, but COVID has really limited our ability to do that again. Orange Shirt Day at Roland Michener Secondary School will consist of a Facebook video and encouraging staff and students to wear orange on the 30th. Besides that, our team ran personal development sessions about Orange Shirt Day and the Indian residential school era in August before school started, anticipating that teachers would have the best ability to add context in their classes.

“Our elementary schools allow in-person presentations by staff, with some careful protocols around sanitization in between classes, contact tracking etc.

“At C.J. Schurter and E.G. Wahlstrom, we will read aloud from the various excellent age-appropriate books. Of course, we will encourage the wearing of orange as well.

“In general, we differentiate our messaging around Orange Shirt Day based on the grade we are addressing.

“For example, at junior and senior high, we examine the historical and social context and the legacy of the Indian residential school system.

“In elementary grades, we like to keep the messaging focused on the positive message of Every Child Matters, emphasizing our duty as adults to respect the students and their individuality.”

Every Child Matters is a motto of the movement.

Orangeshirtday.org says, “Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013.

“Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.

“The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. It is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.”

In 2017, Drummers on Orange Shirt Day at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Slave Lake.
In 2019, Smith School students and teachers pose for Orange Shirt Day. This year’s remembrance of Canada’s residential school era will look a bit different because of COVID-19 health protocols.

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