Stephanie Wright (Gitxalla Nation) gently tells the story of Orange Shirt Day to
young people in Kiwassa childcare programs.
Kiwassa staff member Stephanie Wright (Gitxalla Nation) was our in-house storyteller for Orange Shirt Day this year. She used smudging bowl and drum to share the story behind the message “every child matters” for the young people in our childcare programs.
After drumming the Welcome and Water Song from Squamish First Nation, here is the story Stephanie shared with Kiwassa neighbour and volunteer Liam Hill-Allan when he visited to learn about the special meaning of this story.
“[Orange Shirt Day is] Phyllis’ story. And she thought of it in 2013. From when she was in residential school in 1973. And she was brought shopping with her granny. And she picked out a beautiful orange shirt. She was actually excited about going to school, she didn’t know residential school was anything bad at the time, I don’t think any children did.”
Staff members and children celebrate the message that every child matters
during Kiwassa’s celebration of Orange Shirt Day.
“At that time, she just thought that they were going to school. So she went out shopping with her granny and bought a beautiful orange shirt. She said it had sparkles, it had lace, and she was excited to wear it the first day of school. And when she went to St. Joseph Mission in Williams Lake—that’s where she went—on her first day it was just stripped away, taken away from her. And years later, she thought she wanted everybody to know that every child matters. Because at that time, she felt like she didn’t matter to anybody. So that is how she came about creating Orange Shirt Day.”
[Phyllis] wanted every child to feel like they did matter. And that’s what every teacher tries to incorporate into their programs. I know that here we do.
“I really enjoy, you know, taking part with the children. And you see in the circle here today, how many of those children were learning about it? [These] children are two and a half, three, four, and five. They don’t need to know [the awful details of residential schools]. But at least letting them know that happened is a beginning.”
Staff members wear their official Orange Shirt Day T-shirts to celebrate
children from all backgrounds who attend childcare programs at Kiwassa.
Stephanie explains how she brings Indigenous traditions into the learning environment at Kiwassa:
“So every morning, I do a smudge. Some children do it with me. And that’s just a prayer with sage, rosemary, a little bit of cedar and we just bless ourselves. We bless our eyes to see all the good. We bless our mouth to speak all the good. Our ears to hear all the good and our hearts to feel the love. Some enjoy watching me and they actually like the smell so they join and sometimes they do sometimes they don’t.”
Folks throughout Kiwassa Neighbourhood House celebrated Orange Shirt Day, including teens and the youth team, who shared the message on Instagram:
Kiwassa strong believes every child has the right to opportunities
that allows them to achieve and pursue their dreams! EVERY Child Matters. #kiwassayouth #residentionalschools #everychildmatters #orangeshirtday #community #weareone
Photos 1-3 by Liam Hill-Allan. Story by Liam Hill-Allan with contributions by Jenny van Enckevort.
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