Neskonlith Indian Band member Jerry Thomas painfully recounts his scarring residential school experience from 50 years ago during special School District #83 Orange Shirt Day assembly at Shuswap Middle School on Friday, Sept. 29. Orange Shirt Day, which falls on Sept. 30th, began in 2013 in honour of Phyllis Webstad, whose clothes, including a new orange shirt given to her by her grandmother, were taken away on her first day of residential school. -Image Credit: Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer

Editorial: Orange shirts and memories

Memories are fickle things. Good or bad, some fade in time, while others are recalled as if they happened yesterday.

Horrific memories are another matter altogether. They can be buried. They can be ignored, but they’ll always be a part of who you are, and perhaps even shape who and what you become.

Last week, School District #83 students respectfully honoured Canada’s First Nations by recognizing the horrors of the residential school experience with Orange Shirt Day.

Occurring Sept. 30th, Orange Shirt Day was started in 2013 in honour of residential school survivors, including Phyllis Webstad, whose clothes, including a new orange shirt given to her by her grandmother, were stripped away from her on her first day of residential school.

Shuswap Middle School hosted a school district Orange Shirt Day ceremony. One of the guest speakers, Neskonlith Indian Band member Gerry Thomas, painfully recounted his time in a residential school. Though it happened 50 years ago, it was clear the scars left by the experience are as raw as when they were first inflicted.

Trite sentiments about time healing all wounds and putting the past behind us do nothing to diminish such memories. Perhaps nothing can. But we can make the necessary effort to assure Thomas and other residential school survivors that what happened in the past will never happen again.

Our public schools play a key role in this, making sure Aboriginal history is prominent, honest and accurate in the curriculum, while fostering respect among students for one another’s freedoms of cultural practices and expression.

School District #83 has educators working behind the scenes to each of these ends and more – promoting truth and reconciliation in the schools. Hopefully, this will further establish a foundation of shared experiences that leave positive lasting memories.

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