The Orange Shirt Day movement started in 2013 to highlight the pain and suffering of thousands of Indigenous children who were sent to residential school throughout the last century. The colour of the shirt is connected to the experience of Phyllis Webstad who was sent to Cariboo Residential School near Williams Lake, BC, in 1973.
Six -years old at the time, Phyllis went to her first day of school wearing a new bright orange shirt. New clothes were a rare thing for the young girl, who was being raised by her grandmother. However, upon arriving at the school, the nuns asked her of remove her shirt, and she was forced to wear the school’s institutional uniform.
Webstad has felt the impact of that event long after it occurred, “that feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter.”
The shirt has since gone on to become a symbol of a national movement that recognizes the suffering of Indigenous children at residential schools across the country and to show a renewed commitment to ensure that every child matters.
We encourage all St. Mary staff and students to wear an orange shirt on September 30, 2021 to recognize the resiliency and bravery of Residential School Survivors.