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The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation


In recognition of the new federal statutory holiday, Canadians from coast to coast to coast, learned of or remembered in their own way the stories and perspectives of Indigenous peoples affected by the tragedies of the residential school system in Canada.
On Opaskwayak Cree Nation, a walk of remembrance from the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Arena took place on Thursday September 30 at 11:30 A.M. where a procession hundreds of local citizens in a sea or orange shirts walked solemnly from the arena to the Arbour site. The walk of remembrance was not only for the many victims of the residential school system from OCN, but for the many thousands of survivors all across the country. The walk was to honour those Indigenous children who experienced or witnessed cruel injustices. Many emerged traumatized, many still suffer pain.
In September 1973, Phyllis Webstad, who had just turned six, was excited for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School near Williams Lake, in British Columbia. Webstad was living with her grandmother at the time, and while the family did not have much money, her grandmother had taken her to the store to buy a new outfit. Webstad picked out an orange shirt.
“It was bright and exciting, just how I felt to be going to school for the first time,” says Webstad.
When she got to school, Webstad, who is Northern Secwépemc from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation and a third-generation residential-school survivor, says they took her clothes away, including the orange shirt. “No matter how much I cried and wanted it back, no one would listen,” says Webstad. “I never wore my shirt again.”
Webstad first shared her story about the orange shirt in 2013; the first Orange Shirt Day was held that year on September 30 in the Cariboo Chilcotin region of British Columbia. What began as a grassroots initiative is now marked across the country as part of an effort to raise awareness of the legacy of Canada’s residential-school system.