September 30, 2018 11:00 am
Updated: September 30, 2018 2:12 pm

2018 Alberta Orange Shirt Day logo designed by Calgary girl

Eleven-year-old Sophie St. Cyr created the winning Orange Shirt Day design last year.

Courtesy: The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities
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A Calgary girl designed the logo for orange shirts worn across Alberta on Sunday to honour residential school survivors.

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Eleven-year-old Sophie St. Cyr created the design last year and her contest entry beat those from about 665 other students from across the province.

The annual contest, put on by Safe and Caring Schools & Communities, invites Alberta students to celebrate Orange Shirt Day, honouring residential school survivors and promoting reconciliation.

When Sophie researched traditional First Nations art, she found that feathers were prominently featured.

“The large feather is meant to symbolize the children who survived and got to grow up and the three smaller [feathers] are meant to symbolize the children who didn’t survive residential schools,” she said.

“I felt sad that that happened since I always have an open mind no matter where the people are from or their traditions, so I just felt really sad.”

Eleven-year-old Sophie St. Cyr created the winning Orange Shirt Day design last year.

Courtesy: The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities

Leslie Ronaldson, executive director of Safe and Caring Schools & Communities, wants to ensure people understand the story of residential schools so we can move towards reconciliation.

“I never learned anything about residential schools when I was going to school and I just think it’s important for us to understand what Canada is comprised of and what our history truly is in this country,” she said.

Children’s engagement comes out in the artwork, according to Ronaldson.

“I get goosebumps, I get tears,” she added. “I’m extremely proud of the work that Sophie has done. She obviously understands the whole concept of residential schools and what truly occurred.”

Orange Shirt Day celebration at Monsignor Neville Anderson School in Calgary on Thursday.

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Hal Eagletail is a residential school survivor and member of the Northern Dene Tsuu T’ina Nation.

“Any level, any age, it’s important to talk about the history of the reconciliation, the trauma, the dark history of Canadian evolution,” he said.

“Once we know what the truth is, then we can start with the reconciliation process,” Eagletail added. “Trying to skip the truth and jumping into reconciliation, you miss the whole point of why we’re reconciling in the first place. And with the truth of the dark histories, then we can heal.”

The day is about acknowledging hardships, broken promises and the theft of Indigenous children’s futures and fighting to keep Indigenous identity, history, language and culture intact.

“I’m glad Orange Shirt Day is here,” he said.

Hal Eagletail, residential school survivor, spoke to kids at Monsignor Neville Anderson School in Calgary on Thursday.

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Orange Shirt Day takes place across the country and aims to recognize the harm that Canada’s residential school system had on generations of Indigenous families and communities.

In 2013, Orange Shirt Day started when an Indigenous woman shared her story of having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day at a residential school, according to an Alberta government news release.

Calgary’s event will be held on Monday at city hall, with hundreds of school-aged children marching around Olympic Plaza.

Edmonton held an event on Friday at city hall.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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