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)
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)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)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 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)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)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

Indigenous reconcilliation

Just Posted

Tim Sutherland Sr. likes to go down to Harbour Quay and feel the breeze on his face. On stormy days when the wind whips the rain into his face, he thinks of his son Tim Sutherland Jr., and wonders whether he is warm and dry. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Finding shelter from the storm

Search for housing a journey of false hope for Alberni father and adult son

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Nuu-chah-nulth nations on Vancouver Island hit hard by COVID-19

Eight nations dealing with positive tests, hospitalizations and death

Port Renfrew lies within the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. Could the town be B.C.’s next municipality? CRD director Mike Hicks is considering it. (File - Portrenfrew.com)
Rural Island official upset municipalities get 25 times the amount of COVID-19 relief

CRD director ‘almost speechless’ as Juan de Fuca receives small amount of COVID bailout money

A man was issued a $230 fine after refusing to wear a mask inside a Central Saanich business. (Central Saanich Police Services/Twitter)
New restrictions unmasking Vancouver Island’s belligerent

Businesses recount customer anger about mask edict, as police pledge fines and enforcement

The president and chief executive officer of BC Ferries promises additional reviews to help sustain BC Ferries. (Black Press Media File)
BC Ferries to review expenditures following 43 per cent passenger drop in 2020

Promise from CEO follows new figures showing significant decline in passengers

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

BC Transit confirmed on Dec. 1 that a Langford employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Courtesy of BC Transit)
Langford transit worker tests positive for COVID-19

Island Health is conducting contact tracing for the case

Island Health is expanding COVID-19 testing in Nanaimo with a new testing location at Vancouver Island University. (News Bulletin file photo)
Island Health expands COVID-19 testing in Nanaimo

Health authority opens new testing site with double the capacity at Vancouver Island University

Colwood resident, Geoffrey Irwin, has been missing since Sep. 27. His vehicle was found in Vancouver on Nov. 25. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Police search for Colwood man last seen in September

Geoffrey Irwin’s vehicle was found in Vancouver Nov. 25

North Island mayors say their voices should be heard by DFO before final decisions are made about fish farms. (Black Press file photo)
North Island mayors asking to be let in on fish farm consultations

DFO evaluating 18 Discovery Island fish farms and transitioning from open-net farms

Most Read