A Day of Orange to Remember a Dark Time in History for Indigenous People

DULUTH, Minn. — A dark part of history that’s rarely talked about is finally having a light shined on it. Back in the 1800’s and 1900’s, indigenous children were taken from their families and forced into boarding schools for what could be described as an “ethnic cleansing”. This happened in both America and in Canada.

Many of them suffered severe abuse, with thousands of graves only recently being discovered of these children who died at the schools. Thursday evening, the Duluth Indigenous Commission hosted a healing round dance on the lawn of City Hall Thursday evening for Orange Shirt Remembrance Day.

Between the 1800’s and 1900’s, more than 100,000 indigenous children were forced to attend Christian, state-funded schools, that tried to assimilate the kids into Canadian society. But while attending, these children were abused both sexually and physically, and thousands lost their lives in the process.

“This is a day that was set aside to remember all of the children that attended the boarding schools, the ones who never made it home, the ones who are still under the ground that people forget about, we never forget,” Kassie Helgerson, Co-Chair of the Duluth Indigenous Commission, said.

What happened 8 years ago at another Canadian residential school brought that sting back. A student proudly wore an orange shirt to school that was torn to pieces by supervisors. September 30th has since been known as Orange Shirt Remembrance Day to never forget the treatment these indigenous children had to endure through history.

“Orange is the color that we use to represent the boarding school children, the children that died there” Helgerson said, “so the orange represents what has been taken away from us”.

The city of Duluth will light Enger Tower in orange on October 2nd to acknowledge the healing of boarding school survivors, and their families.

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