Phyllis Webstad was six years old when the new orange shirt she excitedly chose for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, B.C. was stripped off her back. She never saw the shirt again. This happened in the early 1970s.
“The colour orange has always reminded me of that, and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt I was worth nothing,” says Ms. Webstad. It took her 40 years to find a way to re-frame her experience to fight racism and bullying.
On Sept. 30, 2013, Ms. Webstad organized the first Orange Shirt Day in Williams Lake to acknowledge the harm that Canada’s residential school system has left in generations of Indigenous families and their communities. Every year on Sept. 30, Canadians are asked to wear orange as a sign of support. A growing number of people have responded each year.
On Sept. 30, the town of Uxbridge will mark Orange Shirt Day. St. Andrew’s-Chalmers Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Mamawi Collective and the Uxbridge Library are planning activities to mark the date. Everyone is welcome. The day will begin with a community church service at 10:30 a.m. at St. Andrew’s, followed by lunch at Elgin Park. At 2 p.m., Jacob Charles and the Ashunyung Singers will lead a program of education and entertainment. They will bring Indigenous artifacts and drums and tell the story of their history through singing and dancing. At the same time, children will be able to take part in a program of crafts, stories and games.
At 6 p.m., there will be a dinner at St. Paul’s. Tickets are $25 (limited to 100) and are available at the Uxbridge Library. After dinner, Matthew Stevens, the cultural coordinator of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, will speak. The Hon. Jane Philpott, the federal minister for Indigenous Services, will also speak. A limited number of Orange Shirt Day t-shirts will be available for purchase ($15) at the library. For more information about the day, visit www.stpauls-uxbridge.ca.
Submitted by St. Paul, Uxbridge.