Bright orange shirts with the message “Every child matters” flashed in the sun as a large and diverse crowd marched through downtown Regina Friday to mark the dark legacy of residential schools.
People who spoke at the event said the orange shirts symbolize the cultural identity stolen from generations of Indigenous children at residential schools.
Delphine Gall says residential schools had a lasting impact on generations of her family and that’s why she brought her three grandkids to the orange shirt day walk.
“It was important that they learn about our history,” Gall said. “Oftentimes people think that residential schools happened so very long ago and I attended residential school and the last federally run residential school closed in 1996.”
Before coming out to the walk, she used videos and photos on the internet to help her grandkids understand what residential school was like for generations of their family.
Gall described her experience at residential school as being very lonely. She told her grandkids to think of what it would be like to send her five-year-old grandson to away to an institution. She said they were surprised to hear that she attended residential school.
“It’s something that we don’t talk about that often, but I think today is the perfect day to bring up some of that learning.”
Alex George stood with his family, including his five-year-old daughter, near the front of the crowd. He said he comes to honour his mother who was a residential school survivor. She was taken away from her family at the same age his daughter is now.
“When my mom was just young and trying to talk her language the nun came by and physically assaulted her and slammed her face into the desk,” he said.
“I mostly do it for her, because every time I see my daughter I see my mom when she was that age, so that’s why I come.”
George also attended residential schools but commented that his experience wasn’t nearly as bad as his mom’s. As his daughter grows up, he hopes to be able to answer her questions about what happened at residential schools.
He said he was surprised but happy to see the large crowd coming out to support orange shirt day and to learn more about the real impact of residential schools.
Orange Shirt Day started in B.C. in 2013. The colour was inspired by a story Phyllis Websted told about her first day at residential school. Her grandmother had bought a new orange shirt for her to wear to her first day of school, but when she arrived her clothes were stripped off and taken away from her.