MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – September 30th is a day of recognition across the United States and Canada. Orange Shirt Day honors indigenous children who were lost at residential and boarding schools. It also honors the legacy of survivors.
Mass graves have been found at old residential schools in Canada which has sparked an investigation of boarding schools in the United States.
In a Facebook post from Bay Mills Community College, they explained, “Orange Shirt Day was started in 2013 by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor. For over a century thousands of indigenous children were removed from their communities and placed in residential schools where they were shamed and abused for their identities and heritage. The last boarding school was only closed in 1996 and the generational trauma experienced is still affecting our communities to this day.”
We spoke with Bay Mills Indian Community President, Whitney Gravelle on Thursday. Gravelle said Michigan had three residential boarding schools and that they have a history of removing native children and placing them in boarding schools. She explained the origin of the day and the significance of orange shirts.
“When she went away to a boarding school, she had an orange shirt that her mom gave her. She remembers that the nuns, the teachers at the boarding school took that orange shirt away from her. She saw that as a final act of displacement her family, from her mom, from her culture. So she started Orange Shirt Day which is supposed to bring attention and awareness to boarding schools across the country,” said President Gravelle.