What is Orange Shirt Day?
Imagine you are six years old. It’s your first day of school. You are excited and nervous because it’s a new, unfamiliar experience, and you are all alone. You hope you will fit in and make new friends. You hope your teachers and the other students will be nice. You put on your very best clothes, a shiny orange shirt that makes you feel beautiful, proud and confident. Now, imagine having that shirt stripped off your back the moment you walk through the residential school doors. That was Phyllis Webstad’s experience on her first day as a student in residential school back in 1973.
Since 2013, Orange Shirt Day is commemorated every September 30 to ensure no child ever feels the shame or pain Phyllis Webstad did on her first day of school. This date was chosen because it was at this time of year that so many Indigenous children were taken from their homes, families and communities and forced into residential schools.
Truth and reconciliation begins when we commit to learn our history and not repeat it. Over 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada. The goal of the government-funded, church-run schools was to remove parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural and spiritual development of Indigenous children. Many children never made it home and thousands died while attending residential schools. The residential school legacy continues to impact generations of Indigenous families to this day.
Online Event about Residential Schools
On September 30, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is hosting an online presentation about residential schools. Tim Poitras, a member of the Muscowpetung First Nation and a residential school survivor, will be sharing his personal experience. Joining him is musician and youth mentor, Brad Bellegarde, a member of the Little Black Bear First Nation, who will be sharing his parents’ residential school experiences.
The event is complimentary and will be featured on the Ministry of Education’s online school broadcast system for Grades 5 to 12, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. The public can also attend by contacting the RSM to access a temporary username and password to access the live streaming event.
Truth and Reconciliation in Public Education
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is committed to truth and reconciliation in public education. Here are some of the ways we are supporting this work, building relationships with Indigenous communities and educational partners, and providing resources to our members:
- The Federation leads in the evaluation of curriculum resources and has helped to increase the number of Indigenous resources available provincially. Many curriculum resources were evaluated to ensure they appropriately reflect First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. Resources related to truth and reconciliation and Treaty Education are available at the Emma Stewart Resources Centre and through the Ministry’s curriculum website.
Emma Stewart Resources Centre
Ministry of Education Curriculum
- Supporting Reconciliation in Saskatchewan Schools / Soutenir la réconciliation dans les écoles de la Saskatchewan:
- Examples of Saskatchewan curriculum resources:
- Sponsorships to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s Traditional Knowledge Keepers Program and Wanuskewin Heritage Park’s Bison Program are part of the Federation’s commitment to fulfil the education recommendations identified within the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action.
- STF Professional Learning supports the Ministry programs Following Their Voices and Leading to Learn, which focus on anti-racist, anti-oppressive pedagogy and other systemic changes needed to improve education outcomes for Indigenous students.
- Saskatchewan’s first Indigenous Lieutenant Governor is an Honourary Patron of the Dr. Stirling McDowell Foundation for Research Into Teaching, which funds teacher-led research in Saskatchewan. In addition, the McDowell Foundation welcomed its first board member from a federally funded school, Alex Tawpisim, who has experience teaching in his home community of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. The Foundation has also funded research projects aimed at improving student engagement and graduation outcomes, such as the Culture-Based School Mathematics for Reconciliation and Professional Development project.