I’m wearing my orange shirt from the Woodland Cultural Centre today, Orange Shirt Day, in honour of residential school survivors and all those who didn’t make it home.
It’s been called Orange Shirt Day since 2013 because of Phyllis Webstad, who was sent to residential school. Her grandma gave her an orange shirt before she went, and when she arrived, they took it off her and she never saw it again. This is a symbol of how the genocidal system of child imprisonment known as ‘residential schools’ was designed to erase children’s identity and culture. Even their names were taken away from them and they were referred to only by a number. They were beaten if they were caught speaking their own languages.
I urge you to attend one of the virtual tours of the Mohawk Institute offered by the Woodland Cultural Centre — I recently attended one. I’ve read many many articles on residential schools but that doesn’t really prepare you for seeing one of these horrific places.
The government of Canada has made today a federal holiday but I’m worried that it is just gesture politics. They need to fund Indigenous communities properly and give land back.
The forcible assimilation of these children and destruction of their culture were part of the theft of land from Indigenous Peoples. They were effectively hostages.
Please donate to the Woodland Cultural Centre, Indian Residential School Survivors’ Society, and the First Nations Caring Society.
Further reading and links to organizations you can donate to