Orange Shirt days are coming up. We say days, because the commemoration of the residential school experience, particularly the experience of Phyllis Webstad who initiated the annual Orange Shirt Day, can take place any day between Sept. 28 and the end of the month.
Webstad spoke with Jeremy Harpe of CJWE 88.1 FM about Orange Shirt Day which marks her first day of residential school at the St. Joseph Mission near Williams Lake, B.C., the day she was stripped of the shiny orange shirt her grandmother allowed her to purchase for the first day of school. She never got to wear the shirt again.
The color orange has always reminded Webstad of that day and the start of her own journey through residential school and she never liked the color since. It was 1974 and she had just turned six.
The movement of Orange Shirt Day grew fast since it was first started on Sept. 30, 2013. It has come to epitomize the care and attention required by every child.
“It’s always been divinely guided, it seems,” said Webstad. She said the day was motivated by Murray Sinclair, the chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the legacy of the residential school experience.
He “wanted the conversation to continue.” And Orange Shirt Day was a response.
The federal government has recently stated that Sept. 30 is being considered for a national holiday to further mark residential school commemoration.
Webstad has written a book about her experience with all of it. It’s called the Orange Shirt Story.