Orange Shirt Day is fast approaching, and its Victoria founders Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray will be participating in several events in the week leading up to Sept. 30.
On Monday (Sept. 26), the B.C. legislature will be hosting a Youth Art for Reconciliation launch event, in which Charlie will be speaking as a residential school survivor. While the launch on Monday will not be open to the public, the art display will be open to the public in the Lower Rotunda from Sept. 27 to Oct.7.
A framed orange shirt has been on permanent display inside the legislature’s Hall of Honour since October 2021.
Also on Monday, Charlie will speak at the official opening of the Orange Shirt Display in the Royal B.C. Museum’s Pocket Gallery. The free event, which runs from 4 to 9:30 p.m., will also feature performances by a Songhees dance group and a special screening of a series of short documentaries at the IMAX theatre.
Registration online in advance is required to attend the IMAX screening.
On Sept. 29, Charlie will speak again along with three other residential school survivors at UVic as part of their lighting of the Sacred Fire, which starts at 9 a.m. on the campus quad. The fire will be lit until 3 p.m.
Also on Sept. 29, Charlie and Spray will participate in a feast and ceremony at Camosun College’s Na’tsa’maht: The Gathering Place on the Lansdowne campus starting at 1 p.m., where they will be honoured for the work they started in 2015 at the school when they organized the first Orange Shirt Day on campus.
The event will also feature a presentation by the Quilters for Survivors and will be emceed by Barney Williams, who is also a residential school survivor.
Of course, the flagship ceremony they are participating in and organizing will be the eighth annual Xe Xe Smun’ Eem-Victoria Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters Ceremony ceremony held Sept. 30 at Centennial Square from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The ceremony will consist of the blessing of the land and welcome by Tsartlip Nation Elder May Sam, a land acknowledgement by Songhees Nation member Brianna Bear, and Indigenous performances by Westwind Intertribal Drum, spoken-word poet Shauntelle Dick-Charleson, and singers Nicole Mandryk and Adam Gauthier who will be accompanied by students from the Tree of Life Playschool.
It will also feature the annual raising of the Victoria Orange Shirt Day flag, a minute of silence, and presentations by residential school and intergenerational survivors.
Spray and Charlie first started work on a Victoria Orange Shirt Day chapter in 2014 when they were Indigenous studies classmates at Camosun. Spray, a non-Indigenous ally, started encouraging Charlie, a residential school survivor, to work with her on bringing the day created by survivor Phyllis Webstad to Victoria.
When Charlie overheard some students diminishing the experiences of residential school survivors one day, he finally agreed, realizing if he didn’t do something his worst fear of the horrors of residential schools being forgotten by society would come true.