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Orange Shirt Day at Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows schools

Special presentation in recognition of event Thursday at ACT.

Staff in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district will recognize Orange Shirt Day on Friday.

The event occurs provincially on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake in 2013, to recognize the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as affirmation of the commitment to ensure that everyone matters.

It stems from the story of Phyllis Webstad, who went to St. Joseph Mission for one school year, 1973/1974. She had her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school there.

She had just turned six years old and lived with her grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve.

“We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school,” Webstad says.

“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt. I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine. The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Orange Shirt Day, according to the organization’s website, has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.

“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 also gives teachers time to plan events that will include children, as we want to ensure that we are passing the story and learning on to the next generations.”

Orange Shirt Day is also 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.

Because the event falls on a Saturday, local educators decided to recognize it a day early, said James McCloskey, an Aboriginal education resource teacher in the district.

As well, in recognition of Orange Shirt Day, Dallas Yellowfly was to do a presentation of Qwalena for grade 10, 11, and 12 students at the ACT on Thurday, 9:30 to 11:15 a.m.

Career fair

The Aboriginal Education Department of School District No. 42, in cooperation with Maple Ridge secondary, is hosting the 9th Annual Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Aboriginal Career Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Booths at the fair will showcase valuable information and educational opportunities for students.

The event is being held at the same time as the MRSS post-secondary information evening, so students will have the opportunity to gather information about both post-secondary opportunities, in general, as well as specific supports and opportunities for aboriginal students.

(Contributed) Phyllis Webstad went to St. Joseph Mission and had her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school there.