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Orange Shirt Day 2017 is on Saturday, Sept. 30 as part of Alberta Culture Days.
The City of Grande Prairie and the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services (GPACOS) are once again presenting this event to continue the dialogue on the effects of the residential school system, particularly children’s loss of culture and sense of belonging and how the community can move forward.
This free community event takes places from 1:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m. at the Mamawe Concourse outside the Montrose Cultural Centre.
“This event is extremely significant to host in Grande Prairie as the whole community has a part to play in reconciliation. We encourage residents of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage to attend the event, join the dialogue and be part of the healing process,” says Angela Sutherland, Manager of the Community Social Development department at the City of Grande Prairie.
Traditional cultural teaching and sharing is a key component of Orange Shirt Day. The event opens with a prayer and smudge ceremony by an elder and follows with dancers and a prayer song.
Various sessions and activities are planned for visitors to learn more about the history of Indigenous peoples. This includes a trio of multi-generational orators who are sharing their experiences and healing from the impacts of residential schools; a 4 Teepees session on education, reconciliation and healing; and a Traditional Elements session highlighting different Aboriginal cultural teachings such as drum-making, beading and jigging.
Many interactive components are also planned for the event. A family trivia game, children’s crafts, bannock making and an exercise for historical teaching called the Blanket Exercise are all scheduled throughout the afternoon.
“The Kairos Blanket Exercise is an interactive and experiential training intended to teach Indigenous history through an Indigenous lens. Facilitators guide participants through a summarized version of historic events from pre-contact to colonization, up to how colonialism continues today and its impact on all of us. The goal is to help Canadians understand our history and move toward reconciliation,” says Michelle Grant, Regional Manager of Aboriginal Services at the Northwest Community and Social Services.
Orange Shirt day grew out of the story of Phyllis Webstad and her account of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away as a child on her first day at her residential school. It has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.
This is the second time Orange Shirt Day has been held in Grande Prairie. It was initiated last year with an event at Revolution Place featuring Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the official launch of the City of Grande Prairie’s smudging protocol.
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