Thompson recognized Orange Shirt Day and the impacts of the Canada’s residential school system Sept. 30 with a memorial walk along Thompson Drive and Cree Road by students, teachers and staff from R.D. Parker Collegiate and other School District of Mystery Lake schools.
Keewatin Tribal Council also hosted an Orange Shirt Day event at St. Lawrence Hall with keynote speakers elder Marie Ballantyne and Clint Saulteaux.
Since 2013, people across Canada have donned orange shirts in honour of Phyllis Webstad, who had a new orange shirt, along with reminders of her Indigenous culture, taken away when she first arrived at a British Columbia residential school in 1973. Webstad also published a children’s book called The Orange Shirt Story in September 2018 in the hopes of spreading her story to a younger audience.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a press release that the residential school system, which forcibly removed Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children from their homes to attend schools far away for more than a century in an attempt to assimilate them, had far-reaching effects that still linger more than 20 years after the last of the schools was closed.
“My grandmother attended residential school and I know the impacts it has had on our family firsthand,” said Settee, who took part in the Thompson walk with students. “I am proud of my grandmother for surviving 10 years in a residential school. For others who have a survivor in their family, I encourage you to recognize them for what they experienced. They are heroes. Let us not forget what happened to young Indigenous Peoples across Canada. This is why we are working to overhaul the child welfare system and return children to our First Nations and their cultures. We still have a lot of work to do to heal from the intergenerational effects of the residential school system. We are strong people and we will continue to heal and build a brighter future for the generations of Indigenous children to come.”