The past few months have shined a light on the dark history of residential schools in Canada. The recent confirmation of unmarked graves containing the remains of Indigenous children have broken many hearts.
“It really stung, having a young child myself,” Joshua says. “The thought of my child being taken away from me, as a parent, just hit home for me.”
“You can see the effects of it,” Yullinda says. “And if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, well, it should make you uncomfortable because these were little kids that this happened to.”
Orange Shirt Day commemorates the story of Phyllis Webstad, who was six years old in 1973 when an orange shirt was stripped off her back on her first day of residential school in Williams Lake, B.C.
She never saw her orange shirt again.
To honour her story and those who attended residential schools, Orange Shirt Day was commemorated in 2013. This year, Sept. 30 will also be observed as a federal statutory holiday for the first time as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“What it means to me is I stand with these people that went through that and I’m here with you,” Yullinda says. “I see you and I honour those little ones that didn’t make it.”
The last residential school in Canada closed in 1997, but the intergenerational trauma continues to exist.
“Growing up my entire life not knowing why my mom or my dad treated me the way they did, that kind of messed me up,” Joshua admits. “I never had a childhood.”