Orange Shirt Day rallies show support for IRS survivors, descendants
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Over 50 people came out to join the Mayor’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee for their Orange Shirt Day walk to commemorate Indian Residential School (IRS) survivors and descendants.
Sept. 30 is the official date for Orange Shirt Day but it fell on a Sunday this year, so many schools and organizations were encouraged to organize events for nearby dates to better suit the community. Sioux Lookout’s commemorative walk took place on Sept. 27 and, despite the rainy weather, many participants walked the full distance from Frog Rapids to the Travel Information Centre.
“I thought it was great. I was really happy to see so many people walk the entire distance. It was great to see some young participants as well,” said Darlene Angeconeb, who is the acting director at Equay-wuk.
The event poster described Orange Shirt Day, “Orange Shirt Day recognizes the harm done to generations of children by the Indian Residential Schools and is an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day also recognizes our commitment to reconciliation, anti-racism and anti-bullying in general.”
Prior to the walk, Victor Lyon and Romaine Wesley led a group of drummers in singing traditional songs just outside the Travel Information Centre (TIC). Participants were then shuttled in buses, thanks to Hub Transit, from the TIC to the Frog Rapids Bridge where they began their walk. Angeconeb shared that she was happy with the variety of participants and the sharing of traditional songs.
“We had people from all walks of life, whether you’re a survivor, descendant or supporter from the community. We hope that people think when they’re walking or they could be praying as well. Hopefully it can be a form of healing,” she said.
“I’m really glad. I also thank Victor Lyon and Romaine Wesley for coming to be our traditional people. They opened the festivities with songs from our culture, which we weren’t allowed to practice in these residential schools so I thought that was important,” she continued.
Due to local Terry Fox Run initiatives, students weren’t able to make it out to the commemorative Orange Shirt Day walk, but Sioux Lookout and surrounding area schools still made sure to honour Orange Shirt Day.
“Sioux North High School staff and students participated in Orange Shirt Day on September 27. Students, staff and guests wore orange to show support for the residential school survivors and those that did not make it home. Furthermore, participants identified their personal reasons for participating in Orange Shirt Day as part of a school bulletin board,” said Desta Buswa, who is a secondary teacher at Sioux North High School.
Pelican Falls First Nations High School had an elder speak with students about their residential school experiences on Sept. 28, but First Nation Student Success program coordinator Dylan Harp shared that students will be participating in more Orange Shirt Day activities later on in November.
“We’ve put off our activities until later on in November to tie in with an art exhibit that’s going to be here about residential schools, but we did have an elder come in to talk with the students about their experience at residential schools,” explained Harp.
The elementary schools also participated in Orange Shirt Day. Sioux Mountain Public School encouraged staff and students to wear orange and they had a commemorative banner at the front of the school. On Oct. 1 Sacred Heart School students got to experience an educational assembly that featured informative discussions, songs and prayer.
“We had an assembly where we talked about truth and reconciliation, we had a commemorative song, and we also had a spiritual prayer service in recognition,” said Sacred Heart School vice-principal Kim Savoie.
On Oct. 9 Obishikokaang Elementary School in Frenchman’s Head, Waninitawingaang Memorial School in Kejick Bay, and Morris Thomas Memorial School in Whitefish Bay gathered for a culture day to honour Orange Shirt Day, which was hosted by Waninitawingaang Memorial School.
“All three schools get together around three times a year and they’re called culture days. All the activities for this first culture day of the year is going to be surrounding Orange Shirt Day and the pride in being First Nations or from Lac Seul,” explained Alisha Hill, who is the principal at Waninitawingaang Memorial School.
“We had orange shirts for all the kids, and the kids went through eight different stations. It was a mixture of kids from kindergarten to grade eight, and they went around to different stations. One of the stations is a craft with beading, another is a book with an activity, there are some videos, and talking to elders who have been to residential schools,” she continued.
Moving forward, Angeconeb hopes to continue the Orange Shirt Day walk as part of the local festivities in hopes of making it a yearly staple in Sioux Lookout.
“I’m hoping to see everyone next year, and I hope this event takes place every year. It’s a nice walk along the beautiful walking trail we have here. Hopefully it’s a bit warmer next year,” Angeconeb concluded.