Thousands of Edmontonians are expected to wear orange on Friday in a show of support for residential school survivors.
Orange Shirt Day honours the 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis who were taken from their families and sent to the schools.
The idea of wearing orange originates with former student Phyllis Webstad, whose new orange shirt was taken from her when she was went to a B.C. residential school as a six-year-old in 1973.
“When we were young kids like that in the residential school we had virtually nothing,so that would have been so precious to that girl,” said Métis Elder Terry Lusty, who spent eight years in a residential school in Manitoba.
Lusty will be part of an event at city hall Friday and is encouraging everyone to wear orange, shirt or not.
“Orange jacket, orange tuque, orange scarf, Oilers jersey — sure,” he said.
The city, hosting the orange shirt event for only the second year, expects as many as 500 people to be at city hall during the noon hour.
Students and staff from the public and Catholic school systems will participate as well, including the student whose art was chosen for the orange-shirt logo.
The design created by 16-year-old Amy Peters was selected from more than 380 submitted by at least 40 schools in Alberta.
“I hope it brings awareness to this cause and lets us know history should never be forgotten but learned from,” Peters said.
She heard about the call for a logo through a long-distance-learning art teacher, before coming up with a design after learning in Grade 10 about atrocities in residential schools.
“In place of the child’s eye there is a dreamcatcher which represents the student at the residential school’s dreams of freedom and returning to their families and their culture,” she said.
Peters is planning to travel from her home community of Delburne near Red Deer along with other students and teachers from her school.
About 10,000 T-shirts adorned with Peters’ logo have already been sold, said Shauna Faragini, project manager for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities. Proceeds will go to awareness campaigns in schools.
Orange Shirt Day is a chance for everyone to hear directly from survivors and their families, Faragini said.
“We get that chance to understand it from them first-hand and really understand why it’s important for us to all learn and understand the history and have that sharing and reconciliation,” she said.
Many other events are happening across the province on Friday.
Students and staff at the University of Alberta are being asked to wear orange and meet at the quad on campus at lunchtime Friday.
People will be wearing T-shirts with a design by renowned Indigenous artist Jerry Whitehead.
Shana Dion, director of the Aboriginal student services centre at the U of A, said it will bring a warm feeling to see so many people in orange.
“When you’re wearing this orange shirt, I hope that the conversation happens, not that you’re just wearing it but you have a conversation about what that means,” she said.
Dion’s father went to Blue Quills residential school, near St. Paul, Alta.
“I’m so proud of him coming this far in life,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have survived what he has gone through and I want to honour his journey.”