‘It affects generations’: Orange Shirt day marked at Manitoba schools

Thousands of Manitoba students wore orange clothing to school Monday to honour survivors of Canada’s residential school system.Orange Shirt Day has been marked on Sept. 30 in schools across the country since 2013 to commemorate and learn about the experiences of residential-school students.The movement was inspired by Phyllis Webstad, a six-year-old Indigenous girl living in B.C., who had her new orange shirt forcefully removed on her first day of residential school in 1973.Story continues below

“It’s extremely important that we remember,” said Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief, Arlen Dumas.“It’s important that there’s healing for the community, I think it’s important that there’s more awareness and education — not only for First Nations but for everyone.”“It affects generations and it affects everyone.”READ MORE: Orange Shirt Day honours residential school survivors. Why isn’t it a stat holiday?The government-funded, church-run residential schools operated for more than a century across Canada.Indigenous children were ripped away from their families, usually starting in late September, and sent to schools where they endured widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse.Rob Riel, director of Indigenous education at the Winnipeg School Division, said Orange Shirt Day has grown over the years at the division, and now includes days of discussion and education with students leading up to and following Sept. 30.Riel said the division’s goal is to make sure students have “a greater understanding of who Indigenous people are, what they’ve gone through and where we are today.”“It’s definitely not a celebration — it’s more of an honouring of the residential school survivors and a recognition of what happened,” he told 680 CJOB Monday.That’s important going forward, said Dumas, who has several family members, including his mother, who survived the residential school system.READ MORE: New stat holiday proposed to mark Indigenous reconciliation set for Sept. 30“I think often times people misunderstand what the residential school experience was — it wasn’t a boarding school, it wasn’t an educational institution for that matter,” he said.“Residential school systems were about assimilation and abusing our families and our children.“I think people need to have a proper conversation about that.”The AMC held a round dance at the corner of Portage and Main Monday afternoon, blocking traffic for roughly 45 minutes, in recognition of Orange Shirt Day.Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol will also hold a healing walk for Orange Shirt Day starting at 6 p.m. Monday at Sergeant Tommy Prince Place.RELATED VIDEO: Grand Chief Arlen Dumas chats about the devastating legacies of the residential school system