Orange Shirt Day events took place across Canada on Monday but not in Lethbridge because of a late September snowstorm.
However, on Wednesday, children, staff and students flooded Lethbridge College in a sea of orange to recognize the lasting legacy of Canada’s residential schools.
The day’s main event was the unveiling of a national exhibit currently on display at the college.
“We brought in these national travelling displays to educate our staff, our students and our faculty on the impacts of residential schools here in southern Alberta,” said Lowell Yellowhorn, co-ordinator of Indigenous student support at Lethbridge College.
The Legacy of Hope exhibit features several stands which display the extensive history of residential schools, including first-person testimonies from those who lived through the system, as well as honouring those who died in the schools.
Lowell said exhibits like these serve as a reminder to the general public of the dark time in Canada’s history where residential schools were accepted as a form of education and colonization.
“We recognize and support Orange Shirt Day as an opportunity for reconciliation here in southern Alberta, in the province of Alberta and the country of Canada,” he said.
“There’s definitely a lot of social impacts associated with residential schools,” he added. “It doesn’t matter which culture you come from, if you’re exposed to any of those types of elements as a child, then it’s going to have an impact on you further down the road in life.”
WATCH BELOW: (September 2019) 2019 Orange Shirt Day commemorates the residential school experience.
Samantha Lenci, vice-president of academics at Lethbridge College, said Orange Shirt Day is a vital event at the institution as it speaks to the importance of children in our society.
“It’s all about the children,” Lenci said.
“Here, we offer youth programming and we want to make sure that we are truthful to the legacy we provide as a college.”
The national exhibit will be on display until Friday, but Lenci said it isn’t the only marker of Indigenous culture that can be seen at the College.
The facility is also home to a Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan showcase that recognizes the Blackfoot name given to the college in 2017.
Lenci said the institution also works hard to continue reconciliation efforts with different events throughout the year.
“It’s important that we always have a student voice, family voice and community voice,” she said.
“We’re on Blackfoot territory which means something significant to us here at the college. We honour it in everything we do and everything you see in the appropriate ways, both in the curriculum and in ceremony.”
Orange Shirt Day has been commemorated across the country since 2013. The event got its name in memory of a piece of clothing stripped from a six-year-old child on her first day at a residential school in 1973.