Campbell River is celebrating its third Orange Shirt Day.

Students, teachers, and residents came to Spirit Square for a prayer and a blessing from local First Nations Elders.

Chief Chris Roberts says the day is important because it reminds everyone that reconciliation has to start with education. 

“I’m reminded of the significance of the education system and teaching and retelling of our history, which for many many years hasn’t been told properly. In some instances, not at all,” Roberts said.

“(Senator Murray Sinclair) said ‘education has gotten us into this mess’, regarding the traumatic experience of residential schools and our people that have endured that, ‘and it’s education that’s going to get us out of it’. I firmly believe that… Campbellton was the place where I started learning what does it mean I’m  First Nations, I’m Wei Wai Kum, I’m Laichwiltach?”

“And (education) has grown so much over the years, to the point that now (we have) a language immersion program at Ripple Rock. To see that much change, I’m really encouraged about what’s in store for the future.”

John Powell, chair of the Kwakiutl District Council, also made a speech thanking the students for participating. He says on the federal government level, there is still a long way to go in recognizing trauma First Nations communities have experienced.

“However, it is the grassroots people and population who will make it easier on a daily basis. The way to do this is through kindness, and love, understanding and patience. Our people are not the way they are because of choice. Our people are the way they are because of circumstances, which have been beyond their control for nearly 530 years,” Powell said. 

He adds that every day, Indigenous communities are still trying to get back to their ways of being, as well as taking control of their lives. 

“We did not get to these places by ourselves and we will not heal properly without your assistance. You can help by learning about what happened to us. You can help by standing up and voicing opposition to all forms of racism.”

“And lastly but not least, you can be our friends when we stumble and give us a helping hand up, instead of perpetuating the stereotypical vulgarities which are so commonly attributed to First Nations people.”

After the welcome, everyone walked to the Big House for more speeches and other activities. 

Orange Shirt Day was founded by Phyllis Webstad in Williams Lake, BC. It’s based on her personal experience when school administrators took her orange shirt when she arrived at residential school.