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Renfrew County students to take part in Orange Shirt Day Friday to commemorate the victims and survivors of residential schools

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Crystal Schick/Postmedia Network:

Phyllis Webstad, Orange Shirt day co-founder, poses for a photo in her orange shirt at Bow Valley College in Calgary, on Sept. 27, 2016. Orange Shirt day developed out of Webstad having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the S. Joseph Mission residential school. Staff and students within the Renfrew County District School Board are encouraged to wear orange to school this Friday.

Crystal Schick/Postmedia Network: Phyllis Webstad, Orange Shirt day co-founder, poses for a photo in her orange shirt at Bow Valley College in Calgary, on Sept. 27, 2016. Orange Shirt day developed out of Webstad having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the S. Joseph Mission residential school. Staff and students within the Renfrew County District School Board are encouraged to wear orange to school this Friday.

This Friday, Renfrew County schools will be observing Orange Shirt Day, to commemorate the victims and survivors of residential schools.

Students and teachers alike will be encouraged to wear orange to school Sept. 29, and reflect on the impact residential schools had on Aboriginal children, their families and communities.

On Tuesday, Pino Buffone, Renfrew County District School Board's education director, told the board during its monthly meeting this early fall date was chosen as it is the time of year in which native children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools.

Orange Shirt Day came about because of the story told by native elder Phyllis Jack Webstad, who recalled how, when she was six years old, she was stripped of her new orange-coloured shirt on her first day at residential school in 1973. She was never told why, and never saw the shirt again.

Buffone said Orange Shirt Day was launched as a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held at Williams Lake, British Columbia in the spring of 2013. It has grown into a nation-wide event.

“This initiative provides our students, staff and school communities an opportunity to discuss and reflect upon the impact of residential schools on our Aboriginal communities, and to grow in our awareness, appreciation and understanding of our inclusivity practices, as well as our diversity as a strength of our society,” he said, “so that the lessons learned from the past can be shared with future generations.”

SUhler@postmedia.com