By Haley Grinder
It is eye opening to think that it has been only a quarter of a century since the closure of the last government-run residential school. The concept of putting Indigenous peoples, particularly children, through residential schools is horrific at the most basic sense of the word.
This was the very true reality for Phyllis Webstad. Living on the Dog Creek reserve, she endured the Mission residential school for one year from 1973-1974. Like many others, she is still recovering from the emotional trauma that she was put through at the mere age of six.
Yet, she holds her head high, inspiring change and a sense of hope for other survivors out there. She currently spends her days travelling the country and sharing her story in the hopes that “others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories.”
Healing from trauma is never-ending and will take everyone working together. Although it can never be forgotten, it can be learned from. The path to reconciliation is no easy task, especially when facing horrors that many Canadians have never endured or understood first-hand themselves. However, the federal government of Canada has taken a crucial step by announcing the new statutory holiday earlier this summer. Sept. 30 will now be recognized as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The day was traditionally known as Orange Shirt Day, coined by Webstad in remembrance of the orange shirt taken from her on her first day at the Mission residential school. Its goal is “to commemorate the history and ongoing trauma caused by residential schools and to honour those who were lost and the survivors, families and communities who continue to grieve,” says Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance.
This Sept. 30, show your support to Phyllis Webstad and the indigenous nations right here in the Columbia Valley by wearing an orange shirt. Visit www.orangeshirtday.org to learn what else you can do. Every child matters.