If you live in Canada, you might have noticed a lot of people wearing orange shirts recently.
Why is that?
This active movement that has captured a lot of peoples attention in both Canada and the united states has a lot of people confused
No it doesn’t mean your ANTI - Canada..
To put it simply, orange shirts are a way to recognize and raise awareness about the residential school system in Canada and honor the experiences of Indigenous Peoples -- past and present. Wearing an orange shirt is a symbol of solidarity and remembrance and it’s origin comes from the long, complicated, and tumultuous history of Indigenous people in Canada.
The first key to understanding orange shirt day & every child matters is:
Knowing what actually happened at residential schools?
Residential schools were federally funded institutions run by religious orders that many Indigenous children were forced by law to attend.
This means that Indigenous children were removed from their homes and communities and forced to attend these schools -- where they often faced physical and sexual abuse and were forced to leave their culture and their language behind.
The survivors of these schools were left feeling completely cut off from their Indigenous culture, isolated, and traumatized.
Residential schools did not provide a good education and instead focused on undermining Indigenous, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit cultures across Canada. The purpose was to force Indigenous children to assimilate into white, Western culture.
The effects of the residential school system are still felt today -- not only by individuals, but by Indigenous culture and communities as a whole. To this day, many children remain missing or unaccounted for, which only extends the cultural trauma inflicted upon Indigenous people by this cruel system.
What can we do about residential schools now?
Today, the primary objective is awareness. We need to be accurately educated about the history of residential schools and Indigenous oppression throughout Canada’s history in order to make certain that Indigenous people are allowed to thrive and celebrate their culture from now on.
You might see in the news that more information is continuously being uncovered about the residential schools and their long lasting impact. This is an important step because it generates awareness for Canadians and the world at large about this terrible part of Indigenous history.
The more educated we become about Canada’s history, the more successfully we can move forward as a nation. Additionally, awareness generates accountability for the government and institutions that allowed the residential schools to happen in the first place.
The 3rd key to understanding the importance of orange shirt day is to have clarity around why the truth behind Canada's history is not very well known or talked about?
The problem is, we don’t often talk about, teach, or generate awareness about Canada’s history -- even the dark parts.
This is largely because Indigenous people continue to be systematically oppressed throughout the world. It continues to be difficult for Indigenous people to share, learn about, and celebrate our culture.
By keeping these dark parts of Canada’s history a secret, it keeps the government, religious institutions, and the other oppressors from having to take any responsibility for generations of inflicted trauma.
Only once we have open, honest, detailed discussions about these issues will the guilty parties be held accountable for so many years of atrocities. That’s why conversations like this one are important!
Now that you know some of the history, that brings us back to those orange shirts you’ve been seeing and why they’re important!
What is “Every Child Matters?”
“Every Child Matters” is the movement that recognizes, honors, and celebrates the experiences of Indigenous children who went through the residential school system.
Every Child Matters has become the slogan for this movement, seeking to honor every single child that was forced into the system and away from their families.
The intention is to raise awareness about the residential school system in Canada and as a way to join together in the spirit of reconciliation. This movement honors the more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children who attended residential schools.
Part of this movement is Orange Shirt Day, an annual day that recognizes this part of Canadian history and seeks to honor Indigenous people by wearing orange shirts.
What does wearing an orange shirt signify?
The idea behind the orange shirts comes from a woman named Phyllis Webstad, who attended her first day at a residential school in 1973. She was excited to wear a new, bright orange shirt her grandmother had given her.
But, when she arrived at the residential school, she was stripped of her clothes and her hair was cut. Her new shirt was taken away and she never got it back.
Today, she is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society, which encourages local schools, organizations, and communities to wear orange in order to discuss and honor the legacy of residential schools.
So, wearing an orange shirt is simply a way to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people impacted by the residential school system. Wearing an orange shirt indicates that Every Child Matters and helps to raise awareness about this important, but traumatic part of Canadian history.
So, if you want to join the movement and help raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada and their long lasting impact on Indigenous culture, you can wear an orange shirt, too!