Orange Shirt Day Founder and Ambassador Phyllis Webstad remains humbled and honored by her story and that of her family continues to be a force for change across Canada.
In 2013, she first shared her residential school experience during a panel discussion at a professional development day hosted by School District 27 in Williams Lake, recalling at the age of six how her new shirt orange that his grandmother had bought him for his first day. from the school was carried away by the staff of the St. Joseph Mission boarding school.
“I didn’t understand why they didn’t give it back to me, it was mine. The color orange always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared, and how I felt like I was worthless. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
This year, 2022, is actually the 10th Orange Shirt Day, she said.
“When it all started, it was originally for the Cariboo Chilcotin region in Williams Lake to keep the conversation going once a year. It happened on Facebook and it went viral. This year we celebrate the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. »
It’s amazing how it grew, she added.
“Since the very first year, I’ve always said that this whole movement, as I’ve heard it called, is divinely guided, that something else is at play. The ancestors, the children, are the ones to be credited with. whatever happens. For some reason my story got picked and I just keep doing my best to be there and talk and do what I have to do.
Webstad and a delegation will be in Niagara Falls on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, September 30, to see the falls turn orange in recognition of truth and reconciliation.
“From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for 15 minutes per hour the falls will be orange. One minute equals 10,000 children and 15 minutes equals 150,000 children who have been taken from their homes and families across Canada,” Webstad told Black Press Media.
This year, Webstad is also asking survivors and their families, as well as people who know survivors, to come to Mother Earth on September 30 and say the survivors’ names out loud.
“In this way, the 150,000 names are verbalized across Canada in a single day. »
She hopes it will happen every year as it was something she thought about a few years ago but hadn’t done anything about it yet.
If people have to stand on a balcony because there’s only a choice, then that’s OK too, but his preference is to have people standing on the ground.
In his own family there are 14 survivors, so they will come out and say the names of those who are still alive as well as the family members who died.
“It’s a way of honoring all the survivors.”
Webstad said Sept. 30 in Niagara Falls will begin with a sunrise ceremony at 7:13 a.m., followed by another ceremony from 10 a.m. to noon.
While in Ontario, Webstad will speak at Niagara College, Brock University, Rotary, and at a matinee and evening with the local Catholic District School Board.
When speaking in front of groups, Webstad often says that “life can be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.”
During one of her presentations, she was showing a picture of her family on the screen and she realized something.
“Watching my son, my five grandchildren, his wife, my mother, I realized for the first time in four generations that the children in my family live under the same roof as their mother and father.”
Webstad, his mother, grandmother and son did not have this.
“That may not seem like a lot to some people, but it’s huge. The family unit is back together again after four generations and what a change this will bring to my grandchildren.
Quoting Murray Sinclair, she added “they will grow into what they were meant to be”.
“I can already witness it in my grandchildren. One of them is six years old and what a character. Nothing escapes him. He speaks up and says what he feels. Traits that the survivors couldn’t have had. When he is sad, lonely, tired or angry, his parents take care of him and help him through this ordeal.
Looking to the future, she is delighted to see the progress and changes of her grandchildren, as they are raised by their parents under the same roof.
Breaking NewsFirst NationsOrange Shirt Dayresidential schoolsTruth and ReconciliationWilliams Lake