Phyllis Webstad’s new book, The Orange Shirt Day, illustrated by Brock Nicol, tells the story of her experiences of attending residential school, and the story of how an orange shirt she wore, purchased by her grandmother, was taken away from her.

B.C. woman behind Orange Shirt Day pens new book for teachers

Phyllis Webstad brings her book The Orange Shirt Story to classrooms province-wide.

Orange Shirt Day, now a national day of remembrance recognized Sept. 30, gains its name from the story of the orange shirt taken from Phyllis Webstad on her first day at residential school.

Her heart-wrenching and poignant story has inspired many across the province and country and around the world to engage in conversation about the realities of residential school and the wider historical marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Now Webstad has decided to reach an even bigger audience with her book The Orange Shirt Story.

READ MORE: Dirty Laundry: I was not expected to succeed

“It tells the story of the orange shirt, how my grandmother brought me to town to buy me something to wear on my first day of Indian Residential School and I chose a shiny orange shirt,” Webstad said. “Then when I got to the residential school it was taken away and I never did wear it again. The book tells about the stuff I went through, and my experiences that year and then finally getting to go back home to granny at the end.”

Roughly 30 pages long with illustrations done by Ottawa-based illustrator Brock Nicol, The Orange Shirt Story is written to be an educational tool used in classrooms, Webstad said. To that end, editions are available in English, French and Secwepemc (Shuswap), while her book tour has a heavy focus on going directly to young people at school.

Opening with a book launch in Kamloops on Sept. 4, so far Webstad said she has travelled to schools in Kelowna, Vancouver, Victoria and Langley before returning to Kamloops this week and finishing in Clinton on the Sept. 28.

Having taken a three-month leave of absence from her work, Webstad will be heading to Alberta and Northern B.C. in October and will conclude her tour back in the Cariboo at Quesnel in November. She said that it’s very emotionally hard to do the tour, as she averages two schools a day, presenting at one big assembly before talking with two classes at each.

“I always had trouble talking, when I would speak at elementary schools, to the little ones. So my book is geared towards the elementary age, but it will be used, I think, in every grade, any grade really, because it’s a good conversation starter on residential schools,” Webstad explained.

Webstad said that the history of residential schools is not just First Nations history, but rather is Canadian history.

READ MORE: BC Legislature shines spotlight on Orange Shirt Day

She feels that everybody in Canada, be they adults or children, need to learn about what happened at these schools. The Orange Shirt Story, Webstad said, can be read as the story of every residential school survivor and, according to what some survivors have said to her, gives them a little justice in their lifetime.

Ideally, Webstad hopes her book will help influence and change society for the better when it comes to the treatment of the next generation of First Nations youth.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to educate Canadians about the First People’s, whose land that they reside on,” Webstad said.

Orange Shirt Day celebrations will take place across the country Friday.



patrick.davies@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Former polygamous leader found guilty of removing a child from Canada

James Oler found guilty of removing an underage child from Canada to marry a U.S. man in 2004

Dog owner upset after five puppies stolen from Cranbrook home

Angelo Polh says a litter of puppies were taken from his home while he was away on May 11.

Local martial arts students head to worlds

Three Cranbrook athletes will be competing against the best at the USA World Championships

It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1912

Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Cranbrook Bandits battle it out in Montana

The junior and senior teams were successful south of the border going 2-2 and 3-0 respectively

UPDATE: B.C. pilot killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

Rescue crews still searching for Okanagan kayaker last seen three days ago

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Most Read