Spirited Reflection: Orange Shirt Day

in honour of the children
Photo by Vivian Ketchum

Orange Shirt Day is on Sunday, September 30.

The day is inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad’s experience. On her first day at residential school in 1973, Phyllis was stripped of her new orange shirt, a shirt that had brought her a sense of affirmation and dignity.  Canadians are asked to wear orange as a sign of support for children and communities affected by the Indian Residential School System.  Wearing an orange shirt can promote discussion, helping us remember the devastating impacts of residential schools and the courageous testimony of survivors offered through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  It is an opportunity to remind Canadians of the need to continue to work diligently towards fulfilling the TRC’s  94 Calls to Action. 

Take Action!

On Sunday, September 23, if you attend a church, ask your congregation to invite people to wear orange shirts the following Sunday.

On Friday, September 28, wear an orange shirt in your school, workplace or at community events and participate in activities of remembrance and solidarity.

On Sunday, September 30, wear an orange shirt and reflect on the following story by writer and residential school survivor Vivian Ketchum.  In churches, consider reading Vivian’s poignant reflection, and share in the prayer offered by Jennifer Henry.

Take photos to share on social media. Use the hashtags #OrangeShirtDay and #ReconciliACTION.

A Reflection for Orange Shirt Day, by Vivian Ketchum:

There is brush behind the school building of where my residential school was in Kenora, Ontario. The residential school was torn down, but the day school remains on the grounds. A residential school monument is there.

I had to take a walk in the brush behind the school building.

Memories. Frightening memories.

Still I needed to walk in the present to overcome the past memories that still had a grip on me.

Needed to see through my adult’s eyes as I held my Shadow’s child hand. We walked together. Towards that one spot. Where the worst memories began. Where possibly my Shadow Child was born and created. She was created to take on the ugly memories that I couldn’t bear to hold on to. This is a picture, is a memory of lost innocence. Pain and fear. No one heard my cries. As I was forced to the ground by the older boys. I looked up to the trees. Dancing Shadows. A child’s view as she retreats further into the Shadows. To become the Shadow Child. I hear her cries echoing.

Now I hold her as she held me through me my worst times. Shadow Child…we are healing. Together.

Vivian Ketchum is a residential school survivor who attended Cecilia Jeffery Indian Residential School in the early 1970’s.  It was located in Kenora, Ontario. Vivian is best known as a writer and photographer who uses her skills to highlight social issues. 

Prayer on Orange Shirt Day

Vibrant God
Your creation explodes with the colours of the rainbow
Your peoples reveal the beauty of diversity
We remember today when the joy and dignity of a precious child was destroyed.
We lament today for the childhoods lost through the residential school system.
We mourn for the spirits crushed and the futures compromised.
Celebrate the hope and joy of every child
Tell the stories of resistance that make us stronger
Build the bonds of solidarity to ensure “never again”
In the name of the one who was child among us

Filed in: Indigenous Rights, Spirited Reflections


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