Pembina Trails is committed to sharing community voices. To honour Orange Shirt Day, we reached out to the Nelson/McKay family and asked that we share their perspectives on commemorating residential school survivors. Special thanks to Jodee Nelson and her family, as well as Shawna Nagler, Pembina Trails Indigenous student success teacher, for collaborating and helping create this feature.
Jodee Nelson and Ben McKay are proud parents of five. In their home, they have important conversations about residential schools, and how sharing experiences is a big step forward towards truth and reconciliation. The family is pleased to know that this dialogue continues, when her children get to school.
“As a parent, I want kids to learn about residential schools. It is opening a doorway for discussion. Even if it is the basic knowledge, it is a start. I am glad my kids have a chance to voice their opinions,” shared Nelson.
Her daughter, Edie McKay, is only in Grade 6, but already knows that taking a day to pause and reflect is significant.
“I think it is good to learn about Orange Shirt Day because kids need to learn the facts,” she shares.
Older sister, Eliza McKay, thinks about her family when she puts on the colour orange.
“When I am wearing my Orange Shirt, I think about my grandpa because he went there. I think about the little kids and that they were scared. They weren’t allowed to go back to their reserve, and they weren’t allowed to speak Ojibwe. I think the orange shirt represents a lot of stuff, our culture was taken away and our creativity because everyone was wearing the same thing. Everyone looked the same,” said the Grade 8 Westdale School student.
Eliza also looks towards the future, when she wears her orange shirt “We need to break the stereotypes and tell people we are hard working people and we just didn’t have the same chance and opportunity as other people because we had to deal with residential schools.”
The 13 year old believes all Canadians play a role to bring truth forward towards reconciliation, “There also needs to be input from other people because it is a big mark in history that effects not just us.”
On Orange Shirt Day, and beyond, Pembina Trails School Division will continue to work towards answering Eliza McKay and her family’s call to come together in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, because we truly believe every child matters/ kāhkiyaw awāsisak itakosiwak (Cree)/ chaque enfant compte (French)/ Gakina Abinojii Apiitendaagozii (Ojibwe)/ Tou lii Aafaan kishchiitaytakooshiw (Michif)