Today, Sept. 30, is Orange Shirt Day, remembering Indigenous children who suffered in residential schools.
If you happen to have an orange shirt in your closet, consider wearing it today (Monday, Sept. 30). Orange Shirt Day is a relatively new effort to raise awareness and remember the indigenous children who suffered in Canada’s residential school system, a system that stripped them of their languages, cultures, spiritual traditions and their very identities.
Residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad provided the inspiration for Orange Shirt Day. During a 2013 school commemoration for St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake, British Columbia, Webstad shared her story. It’s posted on the Orange Shirt Day website.Healing Minnesota Stories
I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!
When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
I was 13.8 years old and in grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like. With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother.
I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!
I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories.Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story in her own words…
I have been studying, thinking and writing about Indian Boarding Schools for some time now. The following graphic I’ve been working on visualizes how I see the relationships among Native people and White people.
As seen in the diagram above, Indian Boarding Schools are part of the history of White colonization. The purpose of those schools was to try to forcefully assimilate Indian children into White society. The more I learned, the more I realized this was not only a tragic part of history, but deep wounds from that forced assimilation continue today. I don’t know of a clearer picture of multigenerational trauma.
It has been a lifelong struggle to convince Quakers and others of the terrible damage being done to Mother Earth because of our profligate use of fossil fuels. As shown above, I believe Native spiritual and environmental ways might help us try to begin to heal Mother Earth, and our relations each other. The First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March last year finally made it possible for me to develop friendships with some Native people.
But I felt I couldn’t have honest friendships until I brought up the Indian Boarding Schools tragedy. Although none of my new friends brought that up, the moment I did, I found everyone was quite aware of that history. That is a story itself, that you can read here: https://jeffkisling.com/2019/06/17/the-past-isnt/
Paula Palmer was in Iowa leading workshops and discussions related to “toward right relationships with Native peoples”. The workshop about “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools; Facing Our History and Ourselves” was presented at Scattergood Friends School and Farm, a Quaker boarding (high) school that I attended many years ago.
A resource I recently found is a graphics novel by Jason Eaglespeaker, UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel (PG) where he describes Indian boarding school experiences. Jason and I had an email exchange last year related to a book he helped publish, Young Water Protectors …A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor. I didn’t know it at the time I purchased the book, but I had seen Aslan at Dakota Access Pipeline rallies in Indianapolis.
I enjoyed Young Water Protectors. I see Aslan Tudor lives in Indianapolis. I took a lot of photos there during the Stop DAPL rallies, and I think I have a couple of photos of him. I’d be interested to know they are of him. Would you and/or he be interested if I sent them to you? Thanks.My message to Jason Eaglespeaker 9/13/2018
Hi Jeff,From Jason Eaglespeaker 10/4/2018
Sorry for the delay. Thanks so much for reaching out.
Please do send any photos you have of Aslan at the DAPL, that would be absolutely awesome.
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