Williams Lake is going into its third Orange Shirt Day this Friday with an official Orange Shirt Society and a new website.
Orange Shirt Day, which began here in 2013, is now celebrated across the province, country and around the world, said Jerome Beauchamp, who chairs the new Orange Shirt Society.
Orange Shirt Day, one of the legacies of the former St. Joseph Mission residential school, grew out of local residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad’s story about having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day at the mission school.
“Although Phyllis’ story is just one example of what happened to students at the residential school, it has become a reminder of residential school impact on children who attended and the generations that followed,” Beauchamp said.
Phyllis’ story, and the colour orange, have become a symbol that has made it possible for other survivors to tell their stories, and for the general public to further the discussion on the impact of residential schools on both First Nations and non-First Nations individuals and families, to work towards residential school reconciliation and begin to understand the inter-generational impact of residential schools.
The Orange Shirt Society was formed with a goal of creating awareness about the inter-generational impacts of residential schools on individuals, families and communities and supports Orange Shirt Day activities and the underlying concept that everyone must remember that “Every Child Matters,” Beauchamp said.
Armed with their new website www.orangeshirtday.org and social media connections, he said the society supports activities across the country and around the globe by providing information and activity ideas.
“Phyllis’ story is one of the resources that can be found on the website,” Beauchamp said.
He said the society plans to raise funds and apply for grants to support and host activities that bring First Nations, local governments, schools and communities together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come, as noted on the website.
Orange Shirt Day is Friday, Sept. 30 but activities will actually begin on Thursday evening, Sept. 29 with a comedy show by First Nations comedian Darrell Dennis, said society member Margaret Anne Enders. Admission is by donation.
Dennis, who is originally from Esket (Alkali) will present his show at Lake City Secondary’s Williams Lake Campus starting at 7 p.m.
The show will be followed by a question and answer period, Enders said.
She said Dennis will also be in attendance for the Orange Shirt Day activities taking place in Boitanio Park from 10 to 11 a.m. on Friday.
Enders said activities will include singing and drumming, sharing stories, and activities for children and youth.
Last year, she said about 700 people attended the event and they expect at least that number again this year including students from schools around the region.
“We hope that lots of non-First Nations people will come out and support this reconciliation initiative,” Enders says.