Phyllis (Jack) Webstad was six years old when she was taken away from her family, community, and culture and relocated in a residential school far from her home. On her first day in this school, the new orange shirt that her grandmother had given her was taken away.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the project to commemorate the residential school experience of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013.
The day is an opportunity to learn about and honour the healing journey of survivors of residential schools and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
For some children’s books about reconciliation, see this link.
Share the introduction and the following YouTube video here.
After viewing, create a talking circle (More info here.) and ask:
Remind students that it is important to take the time to understand the feelings of others. Repairing a relationship requires honesty, understanding, and effort. It also involves a change of the behaviour that caused the situation – learning from our past experience. This is why it is important for all Canadians to learn about the history of the residential schools.
Close by asking students to share thoughts on how participating in Orange Shirt Day is one way to respect the importance of the past and move forward with healing.
Ask students what they know about residential schools in Canada. Have they heard of Orange Shirt Day? What do they know about it?
Share the information in the Introduction above. View the following video here.
Introduce the word reconciliation and draw out any prior knowledge students may have of its meaning. Discuss questions such as the following:
Share the specific meaning of reconciliation in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Have students form small groups to discuss the following statement:
In the words of Reconciliation Canada, the term reconciliation is “based on the idea of restoring friendship and harmony – about resolving differences, accepting the past and working together to build a better future.”
Ask students what they think Canada can do to help to “build a better future” for all Canadians, including Indigenous Peoples in Canada. How does understanding the past help us make choices for the future? How does an event like Orange Shirt Day contribute to the goal? Share responses.
For more information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, see this link.
Read the following poem, or present as Readers Theatre:
Have students work in groups to brainstorm what message they would like to give this little girl in her first day at the residential school. Post and share responses.