Grade 5 Students Lead in Honouring Orange Shirt Day
On Wednesday, September 30, the Grade 5 class led our first virtual all-school commemorating Orange Shirt Day to show support for Indigenous communities across Canada. Students and staff wore orange shirts to proudly spread the message that Every Child Matters. For our first All-School of the year, Melody’s Grade 5 class spent the first few weeks of school sourcing materials and fine-tuning their lesson plans to educate the entire school on what Orange Shirt Day means to the Indigenous community.
It was a mid-September morning in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad was getting ready for her first day of school. With an anxious tummy and the bright orange shirt her grandmother bought for this special day, Phyllis was on her way to the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School. Phyllis drifted through looming hallways hoping to see the other children that would soon become her friends. To her dismay, Phyllis was met with a harsh welcome by her teachers. She was taunted, subjected to strikings, and stripped of her belongings--most vividly her new orange shirt. From there, Phyllis continued to suffer through the life-altering trauma the Residential school system inflicted on so many Indigenous children across the country.
With the Grade Fives leading the way, our whole school reflected on what Phyllis’ story means to us. Our younger students got to explore some stories and poems from Indigenous writers, while discussing the ways we feel safe at Linden and how we can foster a community in which everyone is welcomed.
“I had a lot of fun presenting to the third and fourth Grade,” says fifth-grader Maho, “I felt like a teacher being at the front of the room!”
Middle and high school students took a deeper dive into the topic of reconciliation. In breakout groups, the discussion branched onto ways our society can continue to be better and the importance of acknowledging our country’s troublesome history.
“This is my second time getting to present to the older students,” explains Ugbath. “I get nervous at first, but once I’m into it I start having a lot of fun.”
Even after the abolition of the heinous institutions, its effect can still be felt through Indigenous and First Nations communities all over Canada. Phyllis, along with other former SJM students, went on to develop the SJM Residential School Commemoration Project & Reunion. The project aims to not only spread awareness of the wretched history that should have never happened, but also acts as a healing space to give power to marginalized communities around the world. On Wednesday, September 30th Phyllis asked all Canadians to wear an Orange Shirt in honour of the pain and terror that echoes in today's’ collective grief for the innocence lost in the Residential schools. To learn more about the Orange Shirt Society, please see here.