Cecilia Reekie speaks to students at Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary Schools about Orange Shirt Day. (Langley Fundamental)

VIDEO: Langley School District shares what students learn on Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day is an effort to raise awareness about the residential school system

Schools throughout the Langley district participated in Orange Shirt Day Monday, giving students a chance to learn about the dark history of residential schools.

The district took to social media to share what some of their students learned about residential schools on Orange Shirt Day (Sept.30).

READ MORE: Orange Shirt Day is just the beginning, says former Langley school trustee

In a video posted to Facebook, Grade 1 and 2 students at Richard Bulpitt Elementary talked about what they understand about residential schools.

“Orange Shirt Day is a sign of respect, and we’re trying to say sorry by wearing orange shirts” one student is heard saying on the video.

Started in 2013, Orange Shirt Day was inspired by a story shared by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad.

In 1973, Webstad was living with her grandmother on the Dog Creek Reserve in the Cariboo area when she was forced to attend St. Joseph Mission residential school. On her first day of school she was stripped of her orange shirt, gifted to her by her grandmother.

Sean Oliver, principal at Richard Bulpitt, said he saw a lot of orange shirts Monday at his school, and he was happy with how students shared thoughtful reflections.

“We see in our kids this amazing empathy and ability to put themselves in the shoes of these kids who were taken from their families and had their culture stripped away,” said Oliver. “Our kids are able to talk about that and articulate it.”

Oliver said that starting this process with young students means they learn about this history with an open mind and can educate both the older generations and the generations to come.

“They can talk about their feelings in that unfiltered sort of way and empathize so readily and without a lot of cultural bias,” said Oliver.

Since the Langley School District started participating in Orange Shirt Day, Oliver has noticed the impact it has had beyond the school community.

“I am seeing it spread out of schools and into our wider communities… Parents are reading about it on their own outside of school, and they’re joining in that movement of recognizing that history and trying to come to grips with the fact that it exists,” he said.

Throughout the year the school invites cultural presenters to speak with students.

Unlike when Oliver was a student where they didn’t learn about residential schools, he said that history is now “infused into the B.C. curriculum.”

“The core of it is so compelling and so powerful to kids of any age… that feeling of loss… I mean they cry because they get dropped off at school… they’re upset at losing mom for five hours… every one of them can hold on to that feeling of missing family,” said Oliver.


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