Time to reflect: Maple Creek awoke on Canada Day (Thursday, July 1) to the sight of scores of small orange flags in the grounds of the Jasper Cultural & Historical Centre. Who placed them is officially a mystery.
Contacted by the News-Times on Friday, Donny White, Jasper board chair, said nobody had approached him about planting flags. By Monday, the flags had been removed.
This year there had been a push to cancel Canada Day after the discovery of unamarked graves at the site of former residential schools. In May, 215 graves were found in Kamloops. Since then there have been further grim discoveries. The colour orange has special significance in the country.
Orange Shirt Day (September 30) is a day when Canada honours the Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools. It started in Williams Lake in 2013 and has since spread to schools across British Columbia and the rest of Canada. Orange refers to the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad was given by her grandmother for her first day at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in BC. When she got to school, her clothes, including her orange shirt, were taken away and never returned. To Phyllis, orange became a reminder of her experiences.
In the lead-up to Canada Day, some Manitoba Indigenous-owned businesses saw a huge demand for orange shirts from people wanting to honour Indigenous children sent to residential schools. Traditionally, the Jasper Centre is the venue for a big Canada Day programme, with Nekaneet involvement. However, this year’s activities were cancelled because of COVID-19 and insufficient funding from grant and local sources. Plans to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day (June 21) were also put on hold, although discussions are taking place to have Janet Milburn, Métis historian and First Nations artist from the Wood Mountain area, speak this summer.