Phyllis Jack Webstad attended the St. Joseph's Residential School near Williams Lake as a child – it would change her life forever.
But, it was one poignant story she would share in 2013 that would bring the cruelty and injustices of Canada's residential school system to light.
From that, a concept – Orange Shirt Day and a campaign of awareness under the umbrella Every Child Matters.
The significance of the day traces back to Webstad's first day at the residential school.
She recounted, at the age of six, where she was stripped of her clothes, including a brand new orange t-shirt given to her by her grandmother.
It was never returned.
Last year, following the discovery of the unmarked graves of nearly 1000 indigenous children, their parents never knowing what happened to them, the federal government declared Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation; the day set aside to not only reflect on the impact residential schools had on a culture of children, but to learn from history.
“Today, September 30, 2022, marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, intended for all Canadians to create meaningful conversations and to uphold our commitment to reconciliation,” said Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman.
“This is a day for all Canadians to understand the uneven path created by the Indian Act, to honour the Survivors of residential schools and to acknowledge the pain that they, and their families, have carried for generations.”
“We must unite in meaningful ways to build a future based on relationships and mutual respect, one that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will welcome.”
Peace River Regional District chair Brad Sperling added his thoughts on this day.
“Meaningful reconciliation must start with a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, and this is something that we all have a role to take in, whether as government, businesses, or individuals,” wrote Sperling.
“I encourage all residents to join in dialogue, engagement, learning, and reflection on the shared history of the residential school system this September 30th, and to look for ways to support truth and reconciliation at a local level, on an ongoing basis.”
A number of communities across B.C., including some in our region, will commemorate the day with walks and ceremonies.
In Fort St. John, a walk and BBQ is planned for Centennial Park Friday.
An opening prayer and drumming will begin the proceedings at 11 a.m. with a walk to follow at 11:30.
The Taylor Community Hall will play host to a First Nations Round Dance Friday evening.
A pipe ceremony at 5 p.m. will kick off the evening's events which will also include a tea dance and feast.
And, in Fort Nelson, a community breakfast is set for 9 a.m. at the Fort Hotel, ahead of an awareness walk at 11:30 (from the corner of 42nd Street & 50th Avenue North) and a gathering at the Phoenix Theatre featuring guest speakers and a movie at 1 p.m.