On February 9th, Atlohsa visited Woodland Heights Public School to learn about the school's approach to The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. The school's principal, Andy Orr, gathered his staff early in the 2022-2023 academic year to discuss the importance of honouring the memory of those who attended residential schools, including those who never returned, and acknowledging the intergenerational traumas that resulted from these schools.
In recognition of this important day, Woodland Heights decided to observe Orange Shirt Day on September 30th and to have students and staff wear orange shirts every Thursday for the rest of the school year. This school has a large Indigenous student population and even offers an Indigenous language class where students can learn Oneida language as an alternative to French.
“I asked the students and staff to wear an orange shirt every Thursday to remember the traumas and difficulties faced by Indigenous students in residential schools,” said Principal Orr. “I want them to understand that truth and reconciliation should be at the forefront of our actions every week, not just in September.”
During our visit, we were able to spend time in the Junior and Senior Kindergarten classes and gift each of these young students with an orange shirt of their own, courtesy of Atlohsa Gifts and a generous anonymous benefactor. The children were overjoyed to receive the shirts and learn about their significance.
As educators, the staff at Woodland Heights understand the importance of keeping the conversation going and teaching their students about the unpleasant truths of this country's history. However, it is equally important for them to encourage their students, families, and colleagues to play an active role in the reconciliation process so that we can all move forward together in a positive way.
Yaw^ko to Principal Orr and the fantastic students and staff at Woodland Heights Public School for their hospitality and commitment to reconciliation.
To learn more about Atlohsa's Orange Shirt Day initiative, visit orangeshirts.ca