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Residential School Survivor Society’s Angela White sheds light on the organization and its mission for Indigenous communities

September 22, 2021

Articles

This year, our 2021 Orange Shirt Day campaign supports the The Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS) and the Orange Shirt Society through the sales of this year’s new, commemorative orange t-shirts through TSC.   

This year’s shirts were designed by Patrick Hunter, a two-spirit Ojibway artist from Red Lake, Ontario, and features a new shoulder patch of children’s moccasins to commemorate the thousands of children lost to the residential school system. One of the recipients of the t-shirt proceeds, The Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS), is a B.C.-based organization that provides essential services to residential school survivors, their families, and those dealing with intergenerational trauma, with a goal of helping Indigenous communities by supporting research, education, awareness, partnerships, and advocating for justice and healing.

We sat down with Angela White, Executive Director of IRSSS, to talk more about what Orange Shirt Day means to her and what the IRSSS needs from Canadians. Here is what she shared with us:

Tell us about yourself and your role with the IRSSS?

My name is Angela White and I am snuneymuxw, my traditional name is from my grandmother side of the family from Nuu cha nulth nations Haakuum ma tuk.

I have been with IRSSS for 15 years and have been in many roles over these years, from Workshop Coordinator, Resolution Health Support Worker Supervisor, Cultural Support Coordinator and Programs Manager, and I currently serve as the Executive Director. All my roles hold the same main goal of safe, culturally appropriate support for formers students of Indian residential schools and intergenerational survivors.

What is the mission of your organization?

Here at IRSSS, we strive to provide physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual growth, development, and healing through culturally-based values and guiding principles for Survivors, Families, and Communities.

How can Canadians support you in your mission?

By continuing to donate to our much-needed programs. Also, by acknowledging and learning the history and doing personal research such as talking to former students. It is important to pause, listen and not remain silent when hearing misinformation.

What do you hope to bring to Canadians through your work?

I hope for acknowledgement and healing for survivors and their families. I want acknowledgement and healing for those who are non-Indigenous to start a true reconciliation – working together for generations of healing. The history of residential schools should be taught at all levels in schools – including colleges and universities. I hope to have our history taught to new Canadians and Canadians working at all levels of the Government.

What does Orange Shirt Day mean to you?

Orange Shirt Day is a turning point of understanding and healing that’s expressed throughout the country. It only took one person to start such a poignant movement that became such a visual understanding and healing for all people. It is the beginning of much needed conversations and dialogue.

What has the IRSSS accomplished that you are most proud of?

IRSSS has been going for over 26 years, covering all of BC., and at times – other provinces. We have been working closely with survivors, families, communities and all levels of schools, we continue to remain in the forefront of education and advocate for and with survivors and their families through a healing – giving voice.

IRSSS continues to use traditional healing practices throughout programs and counselling, giving light and strength to those who have come home to learn and live and talk about residential schools. IRSSS never closes our doors to anyone who is reaching out, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

To support the Residential School Survivor’s and Orange Shirt Society’s educational programming, purchase a Rogers-commissioned t-shirt designed, now until Orange Shirt Day (September 30) at tsc.ca/wewearorange.