Phyllis Jack Webstad was six years old when she left her community of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation to attend St. Joseph Residential School. Like most six year olds, she was excited to attend school for the first time. Her grandmother bought her a new, bright orange shirt for her to wear on her first day. When she arrived at school, far from home, her new orange shirt was taken away from her and never returned. This marked the start of Phyllis’s separation from her community, culture, family and friends; a separation mandated by the federal government and supported by the church.
On September 30th, we wear orange to remember that Every Child Matters and as people of faith, we need to listen to stories like Phyllis’s and learn from the wisdom, reflection, trauma, as well as the strength and resiliency of those who were taken from their families and communities and forced to attend residential schools, some of whom never returned home again. As Christians, it is also our responsibility to make reparations for the ways in which we continue to uphold colonialism and benefit from the systemic racism in our institutions and societal structures. September 30th is a federal statutory holiday – the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, where people are encouraged to engage in learning, as well as listening and reflecting on the ongoing impact of the residential school system.
As September 30th approaches, here are some opportunities to consider:
- mark Orange Shirt Day in worship in your congregation on Sunday, September 25th by wearing orange and encouraging others to wear orange as well. Rebekah Ludolph has put together some worship resources based on the Season of Creation. (see attached). We are grateful to Rebekah for sharing this resource with the Synod.
- The United Church of Canada has also shared some worship resources.
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has an entire weeklong series of online events being offered for youth and adults alike. These events run from September 26-30th
- I Lost My Talk – Robyn Michaud, M.Ed (Anishinaabe Kwe Lecturer and Ed.D student) shares this well-known poem by Rita Joe and accompanying ideas and activities for children.
- to purchase a copy of the book, Phyllis’s Orange Shirt, click here.
- to purchase a copy of Phyllis Webstad’s new book, With Our Orange Hearts, click here.
- to purchase an orange shirt from an approved retailer, click here
- Medicine Wheel Education offers authentic Indigenous educational tools and resources.
- Starting September 22 – educational programming at the Woodland Cultural Centre.
- September 14-30 – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, 2022 at the University of Waterloo Office of Indigenous Relations.
- September 25-30 – Week of reflective and learning opportunities through the United Church of Canada, including worship ideas and online events.
- September 26-30 – Beyond the Orange Shirt Story – Niagara Falls, a series of events in the Niagara area.
- September 30 – Honouring Our Children Pow Wow, Mohawk Village Memorial Park. 184 Mohawk Street, Brantford, at 12 pm. This event is to commemorate an honour Residential School Survivors. Please wear orange.
- September 30 – Every Child Matters Walk, Kitchener, Healing of the 7 Generations. 10 am. Meet at 300 Frederick St and walk to Victoria Park Clock Tower.
- September 30 – 2nd Annual Truth and Reconciliation Day gathering, 10 am – 12 pm, Pijinuiskaq Park (King St., Bridgewater, NS).
- September 30 – Truth and Reconciliation Day, 1 pm; Hank Snow Museum Grounds, 148 Bristol Ave, Liverpool NS (see poster).
- October 1 – Treaty Day Mawio’mi, 12 pm; Hank Snow Museum 148 Bristol Ave, Liverpool, NS (see poster).
May God’s wisdom and understanding surround us as we continue to learn to walk in the ways of reconciliation, reparation and peace.
Abundant fall blessings to you,
The Eastern Synod Circle for Reconciliation and Justice