The Independent Staff
Kathrine McNabb can’t imagine what it would be like to be taken from her family and sent hundreds of miles away to go to school.
The LCCVI student was reflecting on Indigenous children who were the victims of the residential school system as part of Orange Shirt day.
Orange Shirt day comes from the experience of a young First Nations woman who was taken from her home. On her first day at the residential school her orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken away. Schools across Canada marked the day including in Petrolia on Sept. 29.
McNabb’s class were all wearing shirts emblazoned with “Every Child Matters.”
“I can’t imagine for myself being taken away and forced to conform to someone else’s way of life,” she says.
Michelle Ainsworth agreed. “It’s hard to believe it happened in our country – maybe in other countries.”
Sara Krawetz is the Native Studies teacher at LCCVI. She says students are becoming more aware of what Canada’s First Nations endured in residential schools.
The Ontario curriculum now includes information about how generations of indigenous students were taken from their homes and forced to learn English. In some cases, they were also physically and sexually abused.
Krawetz says the students are interested in the injustice of the residential school system because teens in general take an active interest in social justice issues. The students in her class are also interested to learn about the First Nations culture.
While the knowledge is there, Krawetz says many students still have a hard time understanding why it happened. “They are surprised at the age kids were taken at… this forced removal,” she says.“They can’t comprehend it and why it was allowed to go on for so long. And that no one was punished.”