Today is Orange Shirt Day. This movement started in 2013 because Phyllis Webstad opened her heart to Canadians to share her residential school experience and inspire others to pay attention to its lasting impact.
Resilience, bravery, and courage are at the heart of Orange Shirt Day.
The resilience of all those who experienced the horrors of residential school and somehow survived to tell us all about it.
The bravery many survivors have to speak their truth and those who are brave enough to listen to them.
And the courage for all of us to be inspired enough by this resilience and bravery to change and work towards a different future.
Over the past six plus years, I have become braver. On March 30, 2014, I spoke my truth to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada at its final national event here in Edmonton. It was the first time I had verbalized my experience as an intergenerational survivor of residential school and the hurt, sadness, and loss it had caused in my life. That moment, my shell cracked and in the years since then, my true self has begun to emerge.
Part of this healing journey has meant sharing my truth dozens more times to those who are brave enough to listen. Each time I do, the weight I carried becomes a little lighter and the burden of colonization begins to be shared on the shoulders of all who uphold it.
This year, I was asked to share part of my story of reconciliation with the students and staff of Bow Valley College as the keynote for their Orange Shirt Day event. Here is that address:
Every September 30th, I wear orange because I believe that EVERY CHILD MATTERS.
I wear orange because Phyllis’ story is my story, and the story of thousands of other survivors.
I wear orange because I am here. My existence is my resistance on behalf of my ancestors and the generations to come that will benefit from our struggle.
I wear orange because colonization is a burden that I carry each day and a system I also uphold through my inaction.
I wear orange because there are Indigenous youth struggling today with the same challenges I faced growing up in an unwell family unit. I want them to know there is a path out of the darkness.
I wear orange because my emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical being craves acknowledgement of truth every day.
I wear orange because the harms that my relations have endured pulse through my veins and burn inside of me to keep me going.
I wear orange because racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples is alive and well in our country.
I wear orange because I am a Treaty person and with that comes the responsibility to live into the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship.
I wear orange because I am a fierce defender of truth.