John C. Yesno Education Centre, in Eabametoong First Nation, hosted an Orange Shirt Day event on September 30th, 2016 to recognize Residential School survivors.
Vice-principal Phil Vardy said that approximately 250 to 300 students attended the Orange Shirt Day event. “What we did in our school was we got an orange shirt for every single child and we bought a bunch of permanent markers from Staples and had the children decorate their orange shirts with messages mostly about Every Child Matters,” he said “and then decided to do a small walk around the community to show support for those who were affected by residential schools.”
Teacher Alicia Dobbelsteyn organized the events at the school. She added that they also had two local residential school survivors come in to share their experience with the grade 5 and 6 students.
Dobbelsteyn explained that Orange Shirt Day started in with a group in British Columbia and a woman named Phyllis Webstad. “She [Webstad] told her story about when she went residential school and her grammy bought her a bright orange shirt for the first day. And when she got there they took it. It made her feel like she didn’t matter.”
The goal of Orange Shirt Day, said Vardy was “recognizing the damage that residential schools did, and the intergenerational effects of residential school. But it is also recognizing in a more positive note that every child matters. And that even today we need to always keep that in our hearts.”