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Orange Shirt Day comes to Nevada County

Organizers of Orange Shirt Day hope that color fills the grounds of Sierra Pines United Methodist Church on Sept. 30.

The event — set for 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at the 22559 W. Hacienda Drive church in Grass Valley — will feature members of the Nisenan Tribe singing native songs. There will also be roundtable discussions.

The gathering is intended to be a healing event, said Jeree Walker, an event volunteer.



Everyone is invited to attend.

“I’m getting a whole lot of donated orange shirts, both new and used,” Walker said, adding that more children’s shirts are needed.



Orange Shirt Day stems from the experience of Phyllis Webstad, who around 1973 when she was 6 years old went to a mission school in a new orange shirt. When she arrived at that school, her clothes were taken from her.

“The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,” Webstad states on the website orangeshirtday.org. “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Webstad is Northern Secwpemc, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, Canoe Creek Indian Band, the website states. She’s the founder of the Orange Shirt Society, and lives in Canada.

“Orange Shirt Day was started in Canada because of their Indian boarding school atrocities,” said Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria and executive director of the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project. “It’s to bring attention to this history that so many people are not aware of.”

Covert called the subject “heavy,” adding that people are shocked when they learn about school atrocities and want to learn more. That’s where Orange Shirt Day comes in.

A report issued this year by the U.S. Interior Department detailed burial sites found at 53 such schools in this country. The schools used “militarized” methods when trying to assimilate Native American children. Some children were taken without their parents’ consent.

Covert said her organization is partnering with Walker for the Sept. 30 event.

“I think our community is just full of people like that,” she said of Walker.

Alan Riquelmy is the managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at ariquelmy@theunion.com or 530-477-4249

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