Keestin O’Dell, student advisor and recruiter, kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre, designed this year’s shirt for Orange Shirt Day.
You may have heard the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad. At six years old, she was stripped of the new, bright orange shirt her grandmother bought for her first day of classes at St. Joseph Residential School. This is one of many stories of Indigenous children taken from their families and placed in government-sponsored religious schools, with the goal of assimilating them into Euro-Canadian society. It’s estimated that between the late 1800s and the 1990s, 150,000 children were placed in residential schools, and 6,000 died while there.
“When so many people think about residential schools, they think of elders or people who passed away, as something that happened a long time ago,” says Keestin O’Dell (BA '16), student advisor and recruiter, kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre. “But of course the legacy is still affecting people nowadays because of what our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents went through. It brings it home.”
Orange Shirt Day on September 30 is about coming together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. Orange shirts are available in the mstore and wearing one (or any bit of orange), says Keestin, is an act of reconciliation to help make the Indigenous community stronger.
Keestin designed this year’s shirt and says the bear graphic was inspired by MacEwan’s treaty marker, and the prevalence of bears in his hometown of Frog Lake. “Bear is ‘maskwa’ in Cree and ‘maskawâtisiwin’ means strength, and strength comes from the bear. It's one of our seven sacred teachings. Plus, seeing so many bears this summer made everyone feel really powerful and happy to see them all doing their thing.”
In a campus-wide exhibition from September 23 to 30, you can read the personal stories of lives, including Keestin’s and other members of the kihêw waciston team, affected by residential schools.
MacEwan University unveils new Treaty 6 marker
The sculpture and inscription represents our responsibility to the land, all living things and each other.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.