Karissa Ketter, Features Writer
Phyllis Webstad was an aboriginal girl who lived during the height of Residential Schools in Canada. Six-year-old Phyllis was born into a family who had attended a Residential School in William’s lake for three generations. Phyllis had no idea what was in store for her. Her clothes were stripped from her back as she, and all the other children, sobbed — replaced with the jail-like uniforms that were mandatory. Phyllis’ precious orange shirt that she wore on her first day of school, was torn from her body and she never saw it again.
The neglect, abuse, and mistreatment took Phyllis nearly forty years to cope with effects and begin to heal. Now, she fights back against racism; every September 30th, she unites all of Canada to think about their actions. On that one day, we focus on Canada as a whole, and we learn to respect the many different cultures that exist here.
The last Residential School in Canada was closed in 1996, and so many people are still struggling to heal from the trauma they underwent during their time in school. It is important that as Canadians, we show them that we support them. The single purpose of Residential Schools was to “take the Indian out of the child.” The discriminating people of that time did many things to destroy and minimize the First Nations culture. That’s why it is so important that this generation of Canadians spend their time helping aboriginals find their culture again.
Phyllis Webstad is someone who had a horrible experience, yet made it into something to unite an entire country. Canada wide, on September 30th, we will wear orange shirts to embrace the healing, and reconciliation that needs to be done.
And Remember! There is no excuse not to participate. The symbolic act of wearing an orange shirt is not the only option: orange bandanas, shoes, knee-high socks — feel free to get creative! There is always a way for you to continue supporting the community!
“If we don’t remember our past, we may well repeat it. And that’s the fundamental importance of having a day like this,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan, who was donning an orange shirt of his own.
Here at WGSS, we honour this day on September 29th by advocating awareness, wearing orange, and publicly promising to work towards truth and reconciliation. In fact, we even had a specific wall to put up unique declarations of peace students made.