Ahead of Orange Shirt Day, dancers at a Williams Lake powwow donned orange regalia to honour all the Indigenous children and families who have been impacted by residential “schools.”
The Orange Regalia Special took place as part of the second annual Speaking Our Truth Competition Pow Wow, which was hosted by Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) in T’exelc from Sept. 8 to 10.
The special was introduced in the powwow’s inaugural year in 2022 alongside various other dance categories for all ages.
Addressing the crowd on the powwow’s second day, emcee Stan Isadore praised the group of dancers and their regalia.
“This colour that you see on the floor is a colour that is being honoured and represented as a symbol of resilience and a symbol of strength,” said Isadore.
“There are so many beautiful things that they will never take away from us, they can never take away from us.”
Orange Shirt Day — also recognized as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — takes place each year on Sept. 30.
It began after Phyllis (Jack) Webstad shared her story of her new orange shirt being taken from her on her first day of residential “school” in the early 1970s. The Orange Shirt Society is a non-profit organization that started in Williams Lake in Secwépemc Territory.
It’s through Webstad’s story that Orange Shirt Day came to be, taking place in September because it was around the time of year when children would historically be taken from their families and forced to attend residential “school.”
The Orange Regalia Special began with a solo dance from WLFN Kúkwpi7 Willie Sellars, as a drum beat pounded through the arbour, before the floor was opened to the rest of the dancers.
The group of about 30 dancers represented all ages — from young children in the Tiny Tot categories to Elders in the Golden Age categories. Various styles of dance were represented through this special as they all moved through the arbour during two songs.
From the larger group, the judges then picked the top six to continue dancing for the second song with one winner being chosen at the end of the two songs.
“And it’s evident here today, brothers and sisters, it’s evident here on the floor, you see all orange, you see the First Nations people with their language, their culture and every colour and design that they’re wearing is a story that stays with them for time immemorial,” Isadore said as applause filled the arbour for the dancers.
Isadore praised the dancers and their regalia as he told the crowd to witness, “the powerful colour of orange being honoured by powerful First Nations people.”
“We’re still here and we’re going to be here for many, many years to come,” Isadore said.
Dionne Phillips, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wren