We would like to begin this post with a land acknowledgement. For some, land acknowledgement may be a new concept but it is an important step towards reconciliation. It involves making a statement to show our respect for the land, to recognize the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples who called the land home before the arrival of settlers, and to thanks those who still care for and live on the land.
We would like to acknowledge the land that The Clover School is on is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.
What is Orange Shirt Day?
September 30th is Orange Shirt Day. It began in 2013 and is a nationally-recognized event. It is a day to remember the Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools, acknowledge the continued intergenerational trauma caused by these schools, promote historical awareness and engage in reconciliation. The date of September 30th was chosen as a day of remembrance as it falls during the time of year when Indigenous children were taken away to residential school.
The reason that we wear an “orange shirt” is because of Phyllis Webstad’s story of her experiences at a residential school. It refers to the new shirt that Phyllis was given by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When she got to school, they took away all of her clothes, including her brand new shirt. Her clothing was never returned to her. Throughout her childhood and even now in adulthood, Phyllis has said that the colour orange has always been a reminder her of her traumatic experiences during her years at the school. She has been quoted saying that the colour reminds her of “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
Why We Commemorate The Residential School Experience
As educators, we use this day as an opportunity to have important age-appropriate discussions in our classrooms about residential schools and other structures of systemic racism in our country and world. Yesterday, our Clover School students honoured this day by wearing their orange shirts to school. The classes at both of our campuses spent the day learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture, discussing diversity and discussing the symbolism and importance of Orange Shirt Day. At our Junior Campus, teachers used books to learn about Indigenous culture – which included our Maple students learning how to say words in different Indigenous languages. Junior Campus students did crafts in their classrooms to honour the day – even our youngest Toddler Oak students participated in activities.
Our Elementary Campus students discussed one of the central themes of Orange Shirt Day – “Every Child Matters” – by creating posters stating “Why I Matter” and having open and honest conversations about how the children who went to residential schools must have felt during their experiences in those places. Our students learned about the significance and importance of cultural practices and traditions such as drumming circles and dream catchers. Everyone participated in the day’s activities with open hearts and minds. It was a day of learning and a day of remembrance.
Resources for Families
Though these can be difficult conversations to have, we encourage our community to continue these conversations at home. They may be painful, delicate, and uncomfortable but they are important and necessary discussions to have. Many parents or guardians may be wondering where to begin or how to address this subject at home? The Clover School has compiled a list of resources – books, websites, videos and more – which we hope will help families to discuss the trauma of residential schools and the impact they have had on generations of Indigenous communities in our country. If you have any resources you would like to share with us or that you would like us to share with the members of our community, please reach out to your campus administrative team. We will continue to have these conversations. We will keep learning. We will remember the hurt these schools have caused and we will continue to work to make amends.