School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) turned orange this week, not just because fall has arrived, but because students and staff marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led movement to honour residential school Survivors and their families and communities across Canada on September 30.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation day is a time that honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
“It’s beautiful. There is such awesome participation in Orange Shirt Day events in schools across our district to honour our Indigenous families, communities, ancestors and their experiences,” said District Principal of Aboriginal Education Gail Higginbottom in a Kootenay Lake School District media release.
“It is a celebration and honouring of Indigenous peoples who are such a source of inspiration, creativity and life force for all children and adults. I am truly proud of our students and educators today.”
Kootenay Lake School District Superintendent Trish Smillie said this year marks one of the highest levels of participation in Orange Shirt Day among our students and staff to honour the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families, and the resiliency of Indigenous people and communities.
“While we acknowledge the significance of this day, our staff and students will continue to reflect and to understand the importance of this work every day," said Smillie.
"Reconciliation is about changing our thinking, decision making, systems and structures, and creating a new way of being and working together. It is the good work we will all do together.”
That good work includes an Orange Shirt Day march by Adam Robertson Elementary students from their school to Creston City Hall on September 29.
School assemblies and classroom activities with videos, artwork and other information focused on Aboriginal culture, art and history are happening at Erickson Elementary, Canyon-Lister Elementary and Kootenay River Secondary. Crawford Bay Elementary is holding a Celebration of Aboriginal culture with Liam Fitzpatrick from the Circle of Indigenous Nations.
All students at Salmo Elementary are singing “Oh Canada” together in Cree.
Middle school students at J.V.Humphries Elementary-Secondary in Kaslo are reading and creating art related to Phyllis Webstad’s Orange Shirt Day origin story about having her orange shirt taken away at residential school in Williams Lake.
Students in the Slocan Family of Schools have tied feathers in trees to mark their respect for residential school survivors and are participating in a reconciliation walk and drumming circle.
The Nelson Family of Schools is assembling indoors and outdoors to sing, share thoughts written on orange hearts and participate in Children’s Heartbeat Parade starting at Trafalgar Middle School to downtown and sponsored by the Métis Nation B.C. and the Capitol Theatre.
“We hold and participate in these events every year to drive home the most important point of Orange Shirt Day – that every child matters,” said Smillie.
Both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day occur on September 30.
Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day intended to raise awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of residential schools, and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters”.
The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.
On September 30, all Canadians are encouraged to wear orange to honour the thousands of Survivors of residential schools.