When Saskatoon Public Schools students, staff and families pull an orange T-shirt over their heads on Sept. 30 they will be taking part in an act of reconciliation and remembrance.
September 30 is proclaimed as Orange Shirt Day each year by the provincial government. The day originated in Williams Lake, B.C., where, during a 2013 commemoration event at a residential school, a story was told about a young female student named Phyllis whose brand-new, orange shirt was taken away on her first day at the school. The orange shirt has become a symbol of the many losses experienced by thousands of students and families due to residential schools
The phrase "Every Child Matters" is used to recognize the value of every child and bring communities together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for future generations.
Orange Shirt Day is one of many actions Saskatoon Public Schools undertakes as part of the division's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. Students are encouraged to wear orange on that day and there will be activities and lessons that will foster students' understanding of the impact of residential schools and serve as remembrance of the Indigenous children who survived residential schools and those who did not.
The image that represents the division's commitment to Orange Shirt Day was designed in 2019 by Eileen Knox, then a student at Marion M. Graham Collegiate. The design depicts a child's face with closed eyes framed by flowing hair and eagle feathers and includes the phrase Every Child Matters. The long hair and feathers speak to Indigenous culture. The bangs that fall over the child's forehead represent the violations of residential schools, where children had their hair cut short as one of the ways schools attempted to extinguish Indigenous culture.
It represents the struggle, loss and pain that the Canadian residential schools inflicted on the Indigenous peoples. The peaceful face of the child represents the goal of harmony, fairness and recognition between the First Nation population and all other ethnicities.
Learn more about Orange Shirt Day by watching the video or at orangeshirtday.org