You may have noticed a lot of people wearing orange today, whether it's a t-shirt, dress, or ribbon on their collar. You may also have seen a lot of orange in your social media news feeds today. Today is the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Boarding School victims, and it's represented by the color orange for a reason.
The short version is that many Indigenous U.S. and Canadian children were forcefully snatched from their families and taken to Christian boarding schools from the 1860s to the 1960s. The federal government and churches would take the children's clothing, cut their hair short, and completely strip them of their culture and heritage, even brutally punishing them if they spoke a word of their Native language. Many of these children were also raped and forced to give birth at young ages, it's a horrifying history that most Indigenous people know about, but is now receiving much overdue global attention.
The reason these forgotten children, thousands and thousands of them, are represented by the color orange originates with residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad of Michigan. When Phyllis was just 6-years-old, her mother bought her a special orange shirt that she was excited to wear to the first day of school. Devastatingly, it was a boarding school where the nuns took her beloved shirt, which was just the first act of horror she would experience during her years at the residential school. Phyllis started Orange Shirt Day to bring awareness to a history that had been swept under the rug until mass graves were recently discovered in the U.S. and Canada.
In an effort to raise awareness for the forgotten children and the generational trauma our families have experienced, the University of Montana will foster healing by lighting Main Hall in orange from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight, September 30th. In addition, there will be an "Every Child Matters March" on the Oval on Monday, October 11th, coinciding with Indigenous Peoples Day.
If your grandparents ever mentioned Ursulines school on the Flathead Reservation, this is what they were talking about.