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Orange Shirt Day 2020

By Desirae Barker

Oct 1, 2020

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GDI & DTI Staff

September 30, 2020, the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) staff and faculty showed their support for Phyllis Webstad’s story and the history of Indigenous residential schools by wearing orange shirts.

Orange Shirt Day is an annual national movement in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to Indigenous children in removing them from their homes, families, and culture. The movement recognizes the history and significance of this day by honoring the survivors and those who never made it home from residential schools.

Every year, GDI retails orange shirts designed by Ryan Nordmarken, GDI Culture & Heritage Senior Administrative Coordinator, to spread awareness and share Phyllis’ story. The Orange Shirt Day background and Phyllis’ story, can be found at https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html. A piece of her story is copied below:

“I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my 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!

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.”

Ryan states that after reading Phyllis’ story, “I was horrified and decided I wanted to somehow acknowledge and pay respect to not only Phyllis but to all survivors and families of those who were affected or lost to residential schools. The simple design I created shows two feet (those of a child), with the soles being infinity symbols (to represent the Métis flag).” Let’s not forget the children but honor them on September 30. Every child matters.

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