Orange Shirt Day | Photo by Bethany Althauser | The Wright State Guardian
The Indigenous American Culture Student Association discusses Canada’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, what it means, how it affects indigenous people and more.
The significance of Orange Shirt Day
According to Orange Shirt Society, the first Orange Shirt Day was in 2013 in Williams Lake in British Columbia. The website provides more information about the organization.
“In 2015, the Orange Shirt Society was formed to create awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of Indian Residential Schools with the purpose of supporting Indian Residential School Reconciliation and promoting the truth that every child matters,” the organization’s website reads.
Eliza Hendrix, vice president of IACSA and a graduate student studying comparative politics, is a part of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Hendrix explained the significance and why it is important to have a day of remembrance.
“For indigenous children primarily who were stolen, kidnapped and abused in the boarding school system used by colonial powers. In the United States and Canada in particular, boarding schools were designed to eradicate indigenous cultures through whatever means necessary, mainly abuse,” Hendrix said.
This was not an issue that was limited to just Canada. These boarding schools were prevalent in the United States as well. According to Hendrix, it is not about just one nation.
“I have relatives who are survivors of the Carlisle boarding school in Pennsylvania. I’m actually named after my great grandmother who survived, so it affects all of us,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix emphasized that these were not like the boarding schools today that we have come to know as a society; it was cultural genocide. Hendrix said that children in these schools were not permitted to speak their language; if they did not speak English, it resulted in beatings. Other sufferings included the destruction of regalia or connections to a tribe.
According to Hendrix, with the 1830 Indian Removal Act—which allowed the United States President to grant land in the West in exchange for Native American lands—there was no land left for indigenous Americans, forcing them to assimilate.
Enrico Meza-Cuadra, Incan and the president of IACSA, explained that these horrific occurrences did not stop that long ago. When Meza-Cuadra’s parents were born, this was still occurring in the U.S.
“It’s almost like it’s not an official thing here. We commemorate other things that have happened historically that are considered tragic. They destroyed a whole culture of people in a way, erased people. Why isn’t there anything officially being done to commemorate at least?” Meza-Cuadra said.
Orange Shirt Day is on Saturday, Sept. 30. Since this is not a school day, IACSA will be commemorating on Monday, Oct. 2, and will be hosting an Orange Shirt Day screening and discussion from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in 021 Student Union. IACSA encourages everyone to wear orange on Oct. 2.