On September 30, 2021, the students of Riverside Secondary School tied cedar branches together with orange twine to celebrate Orange Shirt Day. The cedar served as a symbol of strength and the twine as unity.
The event was planned by Ms. Erin Tate. “It took several days and hours. Mr. Brian Barazzuol had met with the students last spring, and then we had a couple of meetings and sketched out what it is we wanted to achieve as a school,” said Tate. She said that it took five to six hours to plan and two days to prepare everything.
Ms. Tate’s class was also involved in the planning and preparation of this years Orange Shirt Day. “First of all, well, we had volunteers that wanted to run the smudge ceremony. And so we talked about what that would look like. We had students have different tasks.”
Ms. Tate said that this year’s Orange Shirt Day was very successful, “I liked that it was more a celebratory way of acknowledging Indigenous tradition and kind of broadening as a community.”
Next year’s Orange Shirt Day is promised to, “build upon what we did this year right, so instead of always focusing on the negative impact of the residential schools, always keeping that in our head, but further incorporating, adapting and acknowledging Indigenous ways of knowing and being as a path for its reconciliation.”
Ms. Tate thinks that Orange Shirt Day, “shouldn’t just be one day a year… to hear the stories of survivors and those that didn’t survive… [but] to educate ourselves and those around us. Right. Maybe older people in our life that have stereotypes in their head from what we were taught growing up. [we need to] be working to break down those stereotypes and the kind of racism and prejudice that is deep seated with our culture.”