Yeidikook’áa Dionne Brady-Howard leads a gathering of about 50 Sitkans in a remembrance ceremony on Orange Shirt Day. (KCAW/Woolsey)

About 50 Sitkans gathered under the Crescent Harbor net shed on Friday afternoon (9-30-22) in honor of Orange Shirt Day, which is also known as Every Child Matters. The event was one of several held across Alaska and the region in remembrance “of those we lost, and those who survived Native residential schools,” said host Yeidikook’áa Dionne Brady-Howard. Two of the most prominent schools in Alaska were the Sheldon Jackson Training School in Sitka, and the Wrangell Institute. Brady-Howard said the two institutions had different legacies for everyone who attended them.

Orange Shirt Day is so named because of the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who was sent to a Mission school in Montana as a 6-year old in 1973. Her grandmother bought her a new outfit for the occasion — a shiny orange shirt with a lace-up front. On arrival, Webstad said she was stripped, her clothes taken away and never returned. She says, “The color orange has always
reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.”

Learn more about Orange Shirt Day by viewing a slideshow on A Brief History of Assimilationist Education and Trauma.