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‘It was the worst years of my life’: Alberta elder opens up about residential schools on Orange Shirt Day

‘It was the worst years of my life’: Alberta elder opens up about residential schools on Orange Shirt Day
WATCH ABOVE: Orange shirt day raises awareness of the impacts of residential schools. It's a way to teach about the indiscretions of the past while ensuring every child matters. Elder Jerry Wood shared his deeply personal experience with an audience in Edmonton Friday.

It’s a way to teach about the indiscretions of the past while also ensuring every child matters.

There was a lot of orange around Edmonton Friday for Orange Shirt Day: every child matters, which raises awareness about the impacts of residential schools. So, why orange? It’s in reference to a young child from years ago. Phyllis had her orange shirt taken away on her first day of residential school. It was never returned. The campaign is a partnership between the two major school boards and the city.

“Ask questions, listen to the stories, understand what happened and then that starts the process of moving forward and to reconciliation,” Leslie MacEachern, the executive director of Safe and Caring Schools, said.

As part of the event at city hall, elder Jerry Wood shared his residential school experience.

“I spent 11 years in a residential school and when I think back, it was the worst years of my life,” he said to the group.

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“Cree is my first language and I wasn’t allowed to speak Cree. I lost a lot in that residential school, my way of thinking. I came from a house full of love to a place that was cold. All these things that I went though – sexual abuse affected me all my life,” Wood recalled.

Watch below: Wood shares deeply personal experience with residential schools on Orange Shirt Day

Elder shares deeply personal experience with residential schools on Orange Shirt Day
Elder shares deeply personal experience with residential schools on Orange Shirt Day

Wood helped Edmonton Catholic and Edmonton public schools put together the orange shirt campaign.

“We can’t keep looking back, we have to look forward so it will never happen again.”

The orange shirt campaign started in B.C. in 2013. This is the first year it’s been recognized in Alberta.