Museum Moment: Orange Shirt Day

I am Celina Loyer, Aboriginal Programmer at Musée Héritage Museum. Since the creation of Orange Shirt Day in 2013, September 30th has come to mean a lot to me, because the day acknowledges my family’s experiences at Residential School.

 

 

 

My mother, Kathleen Steinhauer, went to the Edmonton Indian Residential School when she was four years old. The Edmonton Indian Residential School was situated near present day River 56 Natural Area in St. Albert, Alberta. My mom and her sisters travelled 150 km by train from Saddle Lake Indian Reserve, near St. Paul, Alberta to the school. When I was very young, my mom seldom talked about her experiences at the Residential School. I remember going to the Residential School site with her when I was a young child. She and my father were instrumental in establishing Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Center, located near the site of the old Residential School. As we walked around the property, she took me to a spot through the trees. My mother told me, “this is where they buried the children who died at the school”. That spot is now part of the City of St. Albert Cemetery along Poundmaker Road.

 

 

When my Mother became an old lady, she started to share some of her experiences with me. She told me that she was forbidden to speak the Cree language. She was separated from her family at the Residential School. She experienced physical and mental abuse. In spite of this, my mother rose above all this became a Public Health Nurse and a fierce advocate for Indigenous and Women’s rights.

Residential school also affected my grandfather, Ralph Steinhauer, the first Aboriginal Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. At a very young age, he was sent to the Red Deer Industrial Institute, a Residential School, over 300 km away from his home and family in Saddle Lake, Alberta. When that school closed, he and his sister were moved to the Residential School in Brandon, Manitoba, 1000 km away from Saddle Lake. My grandfather was a kind and gentle man; he never spoke to me about his experiences.

My family is still healing from the legacy of Residential School system and sharing my family’s stories is a part of that process. Two years ago, at École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville, I was fortunate to hear Phyllis Webstad, the founder of Orange Shirt Day, share her own experiences at Residential School.

To find out more about the origin of Orange Shirt Day from Phyllis Webstad, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP508W5zJko.

Here’s an Art Nook at Home project presented by the Art Gallery of St. Albert that you can do, to recognize Orange Shirt Day and to help others to learn about it http://artgalleryofstalbert.ca/gallery-online/.

To learn more about what the Musée Héritage Museum is doing to commemorate Orange Shirt Day and residential schools, please visit our website at museeheritage.ca or contact us at 780-459-1528 or email museum@artsandheritage.ca.