On Thursday, September 30, 2021, U of T marked Orange Shirt Day and the inaugural National Truth & Reconciliation Day with a virtual event co-sponsored by Hart House.
Unfortunately, Lee Maracle was unable to join our event due to scheduling issues. Instead, the event featured a conversation and interactive Q&A with Shannon Simpson, Director, Indigenous Initiatives Office, and Michael D. White, Director, Indigenous Student Services.
Shannon and Michael shared their insights on the meaning of Orange Shirt Day, particularly within the context of the past year, and the ways in which the U of T community can advocate and advance Indigenous causes, both institutionally and beyond.
You can access the video here:
Phyllis Webstad and the Origins of Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day originates in the experience of Phyllis Webstad (Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation). At age 6, she arrived at her first day of residential school, only to be stripped of her new orange shirt by school officials and forced to wear the institutional uniform. Her story speaks of the brutal legacy of colonialism and the ongoing impact of the residential school system on generations of Indigenous children, families, and communities.
Orange Shirt Day has become a day to honour residential school survivors, to remember those who did not survive, and to renew—and act upon—both individual and collective commitments to truth and reconciliation. September 30th was chosen for Orange Shirt Day to mark the date when trucks and buses would arrive in communities to take children to residential schools, which operated for nearly two centuries.
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