Phyllis Webstad inspires Queen Victoria Annex students with her orange shirt story
Phyllis Webstad, a remarkable advocate for truth and reconciliation, and the founder of Orange Shirt Day, recently visited Queen Victoria Annex to read her book: Every Child Matters. The event was an extraordinary opportunity for students to connect with her on a deeper level as she shared her own stories after reading each page.
With anticipation buzzing in the air, students and staff gathered in the school gym, eagerly awaiting Phyllis's arrival. The room was filled with a sense of reverence, as everyone understood the significance of this day and the importance of the message they were about to receive.
Phyllis greeted the school with her warm smile and voice. She began by explaining the history behind Orange Shirt Day, a day dedicated to remembering the Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools in Canada. Every Child Matters tells the poignant tale of a young Indigenous girl named Phyllis, who at six-years-old had her cherished orange shirt taken away on the first day at residential school.
After turning each page, Phyllis would pause to share her own memories and feelings related to the story. How she couldn’t wear her moccasins to dance or sing, how her language was silenced and her culture was shammed. Today, 50 years later at the age of 56, Phyllis knows she has the right to walk on this earth; that nobody is better or less than; that she matters, you matter, every child matters.
Phyllis ended the story with a message about resilience as Indigenous cultures and their teachings continue to be upheld today. While Phyllis' 300-day stay at a residential school was a difficult experience, she acknowledges others had to endure years of it, many of whom did not survive. Phyllis’ story serves a powerful reminder of the devastating impacts of colonization and the importance of truth and reconciliation.
Phyllis acknowledged the school and the District’s efforts for promoting Indigenous culture, history and reconciliation. As the next generation, students hold the key to shaping a future that recognizes past injustices, learns from them, and commits to a path of mutual respect and healing among all communities.
VSB thanks Phyllis for taking the time to visit Queen Victoria Annex. Her visit left a lasting impression on these young learners, inspiring them to continue the journey to truth and reconciliation.
For more information about Phyllis’ story and orange shirt day, visit https://orangeshirtday.org/