Mohawk College students and teachers can come together to learn about and celebrate aboriginal culture on Friday, Sept. 29 in the annual Orange Shirt Day, run by the school’s Aboriginal Education and Student Services (AESS) department.
Orange Shirt Day has been held every year since 2013 to shine a light on Canada’s history of residential schools.
In the 19th century, the Canadian government took responsibility for educating and caring for aboriginal people. Nearly 150,000 children were taken from their homes, often by force, to attend these schools.
Karen Hill, a survivor of the residential schools, spoke out about her experience.
“I’m glad it’s closed,” said Hill. “I would never send my kids there. Never ever.”
She attended the school year-round from age seven to 15 and experienced many traumatic events.
The children would take their anger out by forcing the younger ones to fight one another, they were punished for telling their parents about their experiences and were given old oatmeal to eat.
“When flies are around, you get extra protein,” Hill said about the oatmeal that would sit out for over 24 hours. Children who misbehaved were whipped with “razor sharp” straps.
“The first time I got the strap,” remembered Hill, “[was because] I was hopping and skipping and I was happy, and I got caught.”
Her seven years in residential schools left her with a surprisingly positive outlook.
“To this day I try to look at the bright side of things,” said Hill. “Even tragedy has a bright side.”
Help bring awareness to residential schools by searching through your closet or going thrifting for an orange shirt and become part of an important conversation. “Every Child Matters” buttons will be given out to students who wear orange tomorrow. Join AESS at 2 p.m. in front of the McIntyre Theatre for a group photo.