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Orange Shirt Day remembers residential school victims

Rose Caldwell marked Orange Shirt Day for her mother, a residential school survivor.
Image Credit: Facebook
September 30, 2015 - 8:00 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - If you saw someone wearing orange today, don’t assume they are supporters of the federal NDP.

“Orange Shirt Day is a reminder of the pain and anguish of residential school survivors and their families,” Rose Caldwell says. “For the ones who made it through and the ones who never came home.”

Caldwell is a Westbank First Nation band member and an culture and languge teacher for the Lower Similikameen Indian Band.

She was never in a residential school but counts herself and her seven brothers and sisters as victims because of the effect their mother’s experience had on her own family.

“They say it takes seven generations to be erased. A lot of people ended up in Kamloops but my own mother ended up in Cranbrook. They missed her sister because they hid her away in the mountains. We were never allowed to talk about residential school in our house. It was something she didn’t want to discuss,” Caldwell says.

The difference between her aunt who got away from the authorities sent to round her up and her mother who didn’t, is distinctive, Caldwell says.

“My aunt, her demeanour is calmer, my mom is hard and rigid. She wouldn’t ever show her emotions,” Caldwell says. “As a result, I have to fight to show emotions myself, to this day.”

And given their relatively small numbers, Caldwell says there’s very few natives who haven’t heard the horror stories of the residential school system from their own families.

“Every Indian person will know another Indian person who either died there or went through the abuses.”

According to its website, Orange Shirt Day arose out of a residential school commemoration held in Williams Lake.

One survivor told of how she had her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on the first day of school and a memorial day was born.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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