A large contingent of students at Devon Middle School in Fredericton rallied in the school gymnasium Sept. 30 in recognition of Orange Shirt Day, a national movement to recognize the experience of survivors of residential schools, to honour them and show a collective commitment to ensure every child matters.
"We are really proud of our partnership with St. Mary's First Nation and our First Nation students," said Principal Patty Oxford. "Orange Shirt Day is part of Truth and Reconciliation. We are acknowledging the past and paving the way for a better future. It promotes inclusion and creates a better understanding of our shared history."
Teachers began the school day with instructional time about Orange Shirt Day, the viewing of a video and distributing a blank postcard for students to create a design or write a poem about why Orange Shirt Day is important. Every postcard will be collected and one design will be considered for next year's t-shirt for the Orange Shirt Day campaign. The postcards will also be submitted to the Medicine Wheel Project in Victoria, BC. to become part of their learning resources on community building, cultural sharing and storytelling for First Nation's children.
Orange Shirt Day is a movement that officially began in 2013, but its origin dates back to 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school given to her by her grandmother. However, staff at the mission school stripped the child of her new shirt and replaced it with the school's institutional uniform. Today, the initiative calls for every Canadian to wear an orange shirt in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.
Devon Middle School has 57 First Nations students and five First Nations staff who serve as enhancement workers in the school. Throughout Orange Shirt Day, all teachers adapted their lesson plans to incorporate the Orange Shirt Day message into their classroom work and activities.