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New West students kick off reconciliation week with talk on Orange Shirt Day’s origins – The Record

September 22, 2019

When Phyllis Webstad was a young child growing up on a Secwépemc reserve, she says she often felt alone while her siblings went off to residential school – she was even excited for her turn to attend, a group of New Westminster students heard.

That excitement was short-lived after she began attending the school starting in September 1973. To prepare for her first day, the young Webstad bought a special orange shirt, which would later become the inspiration for the national symbol for survivors of the residential school system.

The symbol is perhaps a perfect analogy for the legacy of residential schools – that shirt, an expression of her identity and a product of her innocence, was taken away from her almost immediately after she arrived. In its stead, she was given the same generic clothing that all her peers were given, their individuality stripped away by the schools.

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