Day 18 (of 187) as I prepare to wear an orange shirt
History is hard. It’s somewhat easier to look back and go “what were they thinking”? In Canada, a black mark on our history is the Residential School System and especially how our indigenous families were impacted.
As one of the boys I was talking with asked, “isn’t it like the boarding school system” — likely imagining the scenes of happy kids going off to Hogwarts! But the truth was greatly different – it wasn’t a choice as it was for families in England. The schools were not close so that meant there weren’t any opportunities for families to have visits (and family members in the school couldn’t acknowledge their relationships….they weren’t brothers/sisters/cousins….they were students….and the learning was in English, not the language they grew up learning. Confusion…frustration…anger….
And the stories get dark.
And I’m embarrassed because I grew up on a community with friends whose families survived this experience…..but their were high costs to survival….and many of us had no idea. No idea that our friends parents did not have much of a chance to learn from their parents….so there were “lost generations” – expeciting people to be parents when they didn’t have parents of their own….that’s very complex. I should not have had to wait until university to learn about Residential Schools. It should not have taken until my last year in university for the last one to be closed…
Phyllis’s story …. it’s a tough one … http://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html
But her sharing has made a profound impact on many people. And we are choosing to wear orange (this week I am wearing orange all week long) to celebrate her willingness to share her story. So we can learn from our history and make sure this never happens again.
I am an inclusionist which means I welcome all members of our learning community to our school because we have a responsibility to do better. There are legitimate reasons for many of our parents to distrust and fear school. We need to assure our families that admitting and acknowledging the truth helps us get to reconciliation – and that is why September 30 (and Friday the 28) is a great time to wear orange….so nobody has to be treated as Phyllis….and so many others were….for being a kid….a daughter….a student….a mother….for being a canadian(?).
Let’s all wear an orange shirt as a way to thank Phyllis for sharing her story and hope that we learn from the past to do better. And treat every learner with dignity. Always.
It’s one thing to wear an orange shirt. But it’s what we do that matters more.