PHOTOS: Hundreds gather in downtown Victoria for Orange Shirt Day

Dancer Keisha Jones performs a healing dance during Orange Shirt Day in downtown Victoria (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Dancer Keisha Jones performs a healing dance during Orange Shirt Day in downtown Victoria (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
High Schoolers perform a healing drum dance during Orange Shirt Day in downtown Victoria (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Students and teachers from local high schools led a healing drum song during Orange Shirt Day in downtown Victoria (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Steve Sxwithul’txw and his daughter Hayley Paetkau raise the Orange Shirt Day flag at Victoria’s City Hall. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Steve Sxwithul’txw and his daughter Hayley Paetkau speak during Orange Shirt Day at Victoria’s City Centennial Square. In front of them sits a brick from the residential school which had been on Penelakut Island. Sxwithul’txw was forced to attend the school as a child. “It was real, you can touch it,” he said. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Hundreds of people gathered in Centennial Square for Orange Shirt Day in downtown Victoria (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Victoria’s Centennial Square was transformed into an ocean of orange on Monday in commemoration of Orange Shirt Day, the national day to promote awareness about the Indigenous residential school program and its impacts.

The day began in 2013, when Phyllis Webstad shared her story of having her new, sparkly orange t-shirt taken from her when she was six years old and forced into residential school, where she and many others suffered from abuse and the stripping of culture and language. Since then, the day has sparked conversations and healing for thousands of victims and their families.

“We can change. Shame on them for what they did to us, but shame on us for carrying it so long,” shared Mickey Cook, a residential school survivor. “It’s time to get it out and be who we are; proud First Nations people.”

Steve Sxwithul’txw, a survivor of the Penelakut Island (formerly Kuper Island) residential school presented with his 10-year-old daughter Hayley Paetkau on the importance of sharing the history, and raising Indigenous youth to be strong leaders with cultural knowledge. He brought with him a brick from his school, that has since been demolished.

ALSO READ: Victoria’s third Orange Shirt Day ceremony encourages education about the residential school system

“I realized truly my existence was to educate these beautiful little ones so that they’re armed with the information of our history as Indigenous people, to carry it forward,” Sxwithul’txw said. “That was real, that brick there is real, it happened. It’s not a story in a book, or a weekend film. This happened.”

Together, he and his daughter, who initiated the recognition of Orange Shirt Day at her school, St. Michael’s University School, raised the Orange Shirt Day flag over city hall.

Tears were shed during the event, and tissues were collected by volunteers for burning in a cleansing ceremony later on.

ALSO READ: Reconciliation dialogues begin at Victoria City Hall Monday night

BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser, was also present and put forward an official proclamation to mark Sept. 30 Orange Shirt Day.

“With this proclamation we wish to shed light on the dark past, to create awareness amongst British Columbians on the harmful legacy of residential schools, to acknowledge the inter-generational trauma and loss of life lost to a colonial system,” Fraser said “And, to recognize the need to increase undrestanding for those who continue to be impacted, because, as the three words on all these T-shirts read: every child matters.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Just Posted

Bonfires allowed in Saanich for $10 but only on Halloween night

Residents can purchase permits at any Saanich fire station

Power outage planned for Victoria General Hospital

Island Health says essential services and patient care won’t be impacted during Oct. 19 outage

Free firework safety courses coming to the West Shore right before Halloween

No permit? You could be fined anywhere between $100 and $10,000

Fairfield-Gonzales residents aim to establish senior care phone line

The Fairfield-Gonzales Village would allow seniors living alone to have a direct line to resources

Vendors open doors to new futures at Black Press Extreme Education & Career Fair

More tham two dozen employers, educators signed on for Victoria event

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Dog killed in alleged hit and run, Goodlife Marathon takes over city and more

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Most Read