In recent years, Canada has made significant strides towards acknowledging and addressing the painful history of Indigenous Peoples in our country. One important step in this journey is the annual national observation of Orange Shirt Day, a day dedicated to recognizing the intergenerational impact of residential schools on Indigenous communities. At CGS, Orange Shirt Day is more than just a date on the calendar; it’s a powerful opportunity to learn, reflect, and come together as a community to support Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
Orange Shirt Day originated from the personal story of Phyllis Webstad, a survivor of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia. Phyllis’s story revolves around her first day at the school, when her brand new orange shirt was taken from her. This traumatic experience represents the loss of identity, culture, and dignity that many Indigenous children endured in residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is observed on September 30th each year to honour the survivors and remember those who did not make it home. As September 30th was a Saturday this year, our shining students and CGS community paid homage to Orange Shirt Day on Friday Oct 29th.
As education plays a central role in our Orange Shirt Day observance, over the last few weeks our teachers have been working with students to create age-appropriate lessons that explore the history of residential schools, their impact on Indigenous communities, and the importance of Truth and Reconciliation. These lessons promote empathy, understanding, and critical thinking among our students, helping them comprehend the significance of the day. We had an abundance of stories shared, art activities created, and open dialogue and discussions about this special day and reconciliation. CGS fosters a safe and respectful environment where students can ask questions, share their thoughts, and express their emotions.
Not only was this past week geared towards learning and reflecting about Truth and Reconciliation Day, but CGS also stood strong and proud with one of the most visible ways to show support by encouraging students, teachers, and staff to wear an Every Child Matters orange t-shirt. It was a sea of orange throughout the hallways and every classroom! This simple act of solidarity sends a powerful message of unity and commitment to the reconciliation process. It also serves as a reminder of the impact of residential schools on Indigenous individuals and communities.
Some of our wonderful teachers also organized an Orange Shirt Day assembly. Each class participated with presenting different activities they worked on in their classrooms including creating different art pieces, reflecting on traditional stories, writing about why every child matters, sharing their thoughts on the importance of Orange Shirt Day, and even participating in our land acknowledgement and a small adapted drum circle. These experiences help students connect on a deeper level with Indigenous cultures and traditions.
Orange Shirt Day at CGS is not just a one-day event; it’s a year-round commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. CGS recognizes that Truth and Reconciliation efforts are not limited to a single day but is continuous and ongoing. By fostering understanding, empathy, and respect for Indigenous history and culture, we hope to contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate society. Through education, dialogue, and meaningful actions, we strive to ensure that the lessons of the past are never forgotten and that we move forward together on the path to healing and reconciliation beyond the walls of CGS!