Orange Shirt Day (Week) at the Belfry

Date posted: September 20, 2017

“I went to the Mission for one year. I had just turned 6 years old. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a now outfit to go to the Mission School in. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had eyelets and lace, and I felt so pretty in that shirt and excited to be going to school! Of course, when I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt. I never saw it again, except on other kids. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! Since then the colour 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.

     “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 know nothing could be further from the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!

     “I am honoured 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. I want my orange shirt back!”

     Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, Dog Creek, BC

In line with the Belfry’s commitment to reconciliation, and in particular given the strong correlation between the message of Orange Shirt Day and the work of Janusz Korczak (The Children’s Republic), the Belfry will be promoting Orange Shirt Day with program inserts and by collecting donations and selling orange T-shirts after every performance next week (September 26 – 30) until Orange Shirt Day on Saturday, September 30.  Kwagiulth artist Carey Newman has generously offered his design for these T-shirts. Donations collected will be split between supporting the tour of his Witness Blanket installation, and youth programs at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 in Williams Lake by Residential School survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad. On her first day of school at St Joseph’s Residential school, the orange shirt she had chosen to wear, the shirt bought for her by her Grandmother for her first day of school, was taken from her.  (Please see links below for her full story.) Forty years later she created Orange Shirt Day, under the motto “Every Child Matters” to acknowledge the harmful legacy of residential schools and to advocate for the rights of children.

More Information:

Orange Shirt Day official web site:  http://www.orangeshirtday.org/

Victoria’s Orange Shirt Day Event:  http://www.victoria.ca/EN/meta/news/news-archives/2017-archive/orange-shirt-day-every-child-matters-is-september-30.html

Artist Carey Newman:  http://www.blueraven.ca/bio.php

Carey’s Witness Blanket:  http://witnessblanket.ca/