Today across Canada, we are collectively recognizing the legacy of the Residential School system through the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In Alberta, many events are taking place to commemorate the Residential School experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
Also known as Orange Shirt Day, September 30 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. As spokesperson for the reunion group, 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 orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led grassroots movement, carries a very important message that we all recognize: that every child matters.
To learn more about The Orange Shirt Society at orangeshirtday.org.
We Albertans can make special efforts to acknowledge the histories and legacies of residential schools, and to honour the survivors, their families and communities.
The Alberta government recognizes the significance of this day as well. There are a number of programs and services that can help you learn about residential school sites.
You can also learn more about residential schools in Alberta by visiting the National Centre for Truth Reconciliation.
And finally, here’s a list of local events:
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo