September 30th has been declared, ‘Orange Shirt Day’ annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and wellbeing, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
Orange Shirt Day was created from accounts of a young girl from Williams Lake who had her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the Mission she was forced to attend, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.
The date of September 30th was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.
To our knowledge, St. Eugene is the only property in Canada that has taken the steps forward to “take back what was taken away” from the Ktunaxa Nation children, in addition to all children who were forced to attend the St. Eugene Mission School, namely their language, their values, their traditions and their beliefs.
On September 30th we encourage all Canadians to wear an orange shirt to raise awareness of what our goal here at St. Eugene is … to bring happiness and joy into a building that once only housed sadness and despair. In the words of a Ktunaxa Elder, Ms. Mary Paul, “Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission school that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within the building that it is returned.”