THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler will join with people across the country to commemorate Orange Shirt Day today.
“The orange shirts we wear every year are a symbol of solidarity and remembrance for Indian Residential School Survivors and those who never made it home. It is important that we take time to remember the truth and legacy of the Residential School system and acknowledge Survivors like Phyllis Webstad, who was the inspiration behind this movement,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic prevents the community from joining together in person this year, so we cannot hold our annual walk and gathering. I encourage people to show their support by wearing orange and posting messages of hope and remembrance on social media.”
A teepee was erected, and a sacred fire lit on the Pope John Paul II Senior Elementary School grounds in Thunder Bay over the weekend. The fire will burn until September 30. Anyone wishing to enter the teepee is required to follow public health guidelines and wear a face mask.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy project of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events held in Williams Lake, British Columbia in 2013. Now an annual event, it is named for Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, whose shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl on her first day at Residential School.
There are six documented cases of First Nations children who died while attending the St. Joseph’s school and 16 children are still unaccounted for. At least 4,000 children died in more than 150 Residential Schools that operated across Canada for 150 years. Approximately 5,000 NAN members attended Residential Schools.