Victoria Park student designs t-shirt to recognize Orange Shirt Day

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

Victoria Park High School is using art as a learning tool.

Students designed orange t-shirts for Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters, and entered the 21 designs into a contest. The winner of the contest had their image printed for Orange Shirt Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 30.

Victoria Park then sold the shirts for $10, with proceeds going to the school’s art program. A design from Emma Hadford won the day, as her artwork will be featured on this year’s version of the shirts. Her design features a bull, complete with dreamcatchers hanging overhead.

Hadford said she was careful to craft a design which would not appropriate First Nations culture. She decided upon a skull to show the passage of time, and added despite the fact the last residential school closed its doors over 20 years ago, it’s still an issue which is very much rooted in the present.

It is the second year Victoria Park has created a student-designed t-shirt, and for Hadford, the creative aspect involved in designing this year’s winning entry was an enjoyable process.

“It was really fun doing it,” she said, and added it took two days to finish her design. “I’ve never done something that was made into something like a t-shirt. It’s kind of exciting because I really want to do something with my art. It was just nice (to win the contest) and made me feel really proud.”

Victoria Park teacher Lenore Lindeman was also proud of the fact 21 of her students participated in the design contest, and the fact over 100 of the shirts have been sold through Lethbridge School District No. 51. Last year, the Orange Shirt Day shirts were only sold within Victoria Park.

“This year, since we were a little more organized, we were meeting in the office and decided to open it up to everyone to buy,” said Lindeman, who added the students only had a week and a half to come up with a design and put pencil to paper.

A video, outlining the reasoning behind Orange Shirt day, was shown to the students to give them a better understanding of the project. Kendall Good Rider, FNMI Liaison at Victoria Park, also spoke to the students.

“I talked about my personal experience and stories that I was told by family members, as well as from speakers we've had in previous years come and share their stories,” said Good Rider, who added Victoria Park’s Orange Shirt Day Sept. 28 will feature a Skype session with Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, author of Fatty Legs and When I was Eight. “She will be sharing her story with us and then answering questions the students may have.”

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, B.C., in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis Webstad's story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the Mission. It has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.

Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

Date posted: Sept. 21, 2017