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New Westminster schools set to mark Orange Shirt Day

Winning student design highlights Coast Salish culture in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

A student-designed T-shirt will be worn in New Westminster schools this week to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The New Westminster school district is marking Orange Shirt Day in classrooms on Wednesday (since Thursday, Sept. 30 is a school holiday). This year, it gave students and staff a chance to order a locally designed shirt in honour of the occasion.

The shirt was created by the reconciliation committee at Fraser River Middle School, where students collaborated with Cree artist Cori Denofreo. Denofreo, a former New Westminster student, guided students in creating logos with thematic ties to the art and teachings of the Qayqayt First Nation and other Coast Salish Peoples.

Denofreo then chose one logo for printing on this year’s Every Child Matters T-shirts. The winning artist was FRMS student Nicola Garcia, with a design inspired by two raven stories: one about how the raven brought the sun into the world; the other about bringing salmon.

Nicola, in a post on the school district website, said the fish imagery was particularly important to her effort to represent Coast Salish Peoples and culture, as was the sun “because the sun is the lifeline, the point of all living things. Without the sun you would not be alive … it is the life giver of the earth.”

She hopes the shirts help to spread awareness of all the lives impacted by residential schools and of the fact that we are on Coast Salish lands.

“Reconciliation to me means giving back what was taken away,” she said.

The school partnered with local company Textile Innovations to have the shirts printed and sold to students and staff for $10 apiece. In total, more than 2,000 shirts were printed and are being distributed this week. (Students whose families pre-ordered will receive their shirts in school on Tuesday, Sept. 28.)

A portion of the sale of each shirt will go towards supporting Indigenous programming and education in the district.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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