The Story of Orange Shirt Day book launched in Kamloops

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad is working to publish a children’s book depicting her experience within the residential school system.

September 30 has, since 2013, been annually recognized as Orange Shirt Day for indigenous communities across the country to honour the survivors of residential schools and their families. The federal government is currently considering to make it a new statutory holiday to celebrate the day at the national level.

But as the founder of Orange Shirt Day, Webstad hopes to use her story to help others gain a deeper understanding of the day and its symbolic meaning.

From the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, Webstad also included sections in her book that cover Shuswap history and specific information about the St. Joseph Residential School which she attended. She ha high hopes for her book, as she believes it will be a valuable teaching tool and addition to schools in teaching children and youth about the history of residential schools and their impact.

Her story unfolds as the shirt reference is rooted in her first day at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in Williams Lake B. C., as she wore an orange shirt that her grandmother bought her for her first day. The orange shirt had laces in the front and upon her arrival, she was stripped of it at the school.

As her memories of the school include her remembering the crying of young children and feeling worthless, the core of the symbolism behind Orange Shirt Day includes the message that every child matters.

The official launch of “The Orange Shirt Story” included the presence of Webstad in Kamloops, B.C., on Tuesday, September 4. And for this year’s upcoming Orange Shirt Day, she encourages others to attend an event near or in their community.

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