Orange Shirt Day: Why Blue Hearts are Important

Posted On Tuesday September 29, 2020
Skylah Joe-George
In her own words, Skylah Joe-George writes about Orange Day and Blue Hearts

For Skylah Joe-George, adding a blue heart to Orange Shirt Day represents a third generation affected by residential schools. The Grade 11 student from Valleyview Secondary said most people realize the day is for survivors of residential schools and their families, but may not know that young people are still affected, even two generations later.  

“It’s about my generation, she said. “We wanted something for youth, because we are still affected by intergenerational trauma. Our entire culture is hurting. Being First Nations and knowing that I could be much more knowledgeable about my culture, and know much more about who I am.” 

Joe-George is one of six students working with their Secwepemc Language teacher Tracy Ned and Aboriginal Education Workers Roberta Regnier and Paul Sawan to launch the Blue Hearts project, asking schools across the district to add blue hearts to their orange shirts on Sept. 30, for Orange Shirt Day.  

The students, all in Grade 11, are Talise Seymour, Skylah Joe-George, Liam Hazelwood, Isacc Baptiste and Dillon Paul. 

To help students and staff in her school understand why this is important, Joe-George wrote a short article to explain. Here it is, in its entirety.  

Why Our Generation Needs Blue Hearts on Orange Shirt Day 

by Skylah Joe-George 

September 30 is a day of healing, as every day is for our culture, but we have this specific day for our community, our schools to join us. Residential schools were the tip of the iceberg that brought much deeper outcomes, from addictions to unnatural substances to disorders mentally affecting families, intergenerational trauma, to hearing the three simple words that everyone is told from day one: “I love you.”  

That is where the blue generation comes in. Residential schools created a domino effect of constant mental and spiritual pain. Because we see the people we love and an entire culture hurting, we can’t help but feel that pain too.  

It is time to acknowledge the hardships of the past, but most importantly, our youth – for the Blue Generation – our generation – to be the healers.  

The people do not want hand-outs. There is no need to feel guilty, or even feel sorry. Actively acknowledge our strengths, and listen. Know that I as your peer am asking for your help to build a community where everyone is valued and Indigenous youth feel they have a purpose. And what has become of the culture can be changed by authentic experiences, to make sure what my ancestors endured in the hardships of the past will not be for nothing.  

We will be stronger than ever. It is necessary to erase assumptions and at least take the time to understand that residential schools cause pain and that pain is still here today within the students of our school and all across the country.  

The support from students and staff is required in order for Indigenous youth to be a part of the present. We are present people. Canada is one country, and we must come together as one.  

So we ask on September 30, by wearing an orange shirt with a blue heart, join us to ignite a new beginning and chapter to move forward and not forget the past to make sure the future is fulfilled the best it can be for the future generations to come.  

From the heart, Skylah Joe-George.  

 

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