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Orange Shirt Day: Honoring Indigenous children abused at boarding schools

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 30, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — September 30 is "Orange Shirt Day".

It is a movement to raise awareness of the traumatic legacy, residential boarding schools have created on Native American communities.

The president of the Native American Resource Group at M and T Bank shared the significance of the orange shirt.

"Residential boarding schools were established in the 19th and 20th centuries to assimilate native children. They were forcibly removed from their homes to attend those schools," Shaun Wilson said.

Shaun Wilson said the orange shirt was chosen because a young Native American girl, who prior to her first day of school, was gifted an orange shirt to wear from her grandmother.

Residential Boarding School where Indigenous children were put in the 19th and 20th century

Wilson added, "Upon getting to the school, her orange shirt was taken from her and she was given a uniform. She never saw that orange shirt again. So, throughout her life, the color orange has reminded her of her experiences at these schools."

September 30 was chosen because that is traditionally when the children were taken away to go to the residential schools.

He said, "They were ripped of their cultural language and identity. Often their hair was cut. If you've ever wondered why so few Native Americans can't speak their native languages is because of these boarding schools."

To him, this is personal, as his father was sent to an Indian day-school between the ages of 7 and 16.

Residential Boarding School

Wilson explained, "So, I myself, among many others in the Native community cannot speak my native language. I was not raised with my cultural identity. So, I wear orange to honor to all of the children lost at the boarding schools and to support all of the survivors."

The community can support the orange shirt awareness day by reading, researching and listening and of course wearing an orange shirt.

The top of M&T plaza will be lit orange in honor of orange shirt day, Thursday night.

A walk also took place at 6 p.m. at Niagara Falls that started at the Seneca Casino, then went to the Falls and back.