September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to commemorate the tragic legacy of residential schools. The date also occurs on what was known as Orange Shirt Day, which was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her special orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, ripped away on her first day at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School.

The community is invited to attend the second National Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day event at Fraser River Heritage Park on September 30. Speakers include local Indigenous leaders.

The event will be held at the former site of St. Mary’s Indian Residential School. Missionaries opened a boarding school at the St. Mary mission in the Fraser Valley in 1863. The school was relocated in 1882 and a new school was built in 1933. Eventually the school was integrated into the federal Indian Residential School system. The school closed in 1984, and was the last Indian Residential School to close in British Columbia.

Last year, XYÓLHMET YE SYÉWIQWÉLH (TAKING CARE OF OUR CHILDREN) was announced by Stó:lō Nation Chiefs’ Council on its website: “Stó:lō Nation Chiefs’ Council (SNCC), under the leadership of Chief David Jimmie, President of the SNCC, launched a broad-based and inclusive initiative to investigate potential unmarked graves and missing children related to three of the former Residential School sites within S’ólh Téméxw. This initiative includes the former St. Mary’s, Coqualeetza, and All Hallows institutions in Mission, Chilliwack, and Yale, in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.”

This work began in early September 2022 at St. Mary’s in Fraser River Heritage Park and will continue every Thursday and Friday of each week in September, as long as the weather cooperates (i.e., no heavy rain). As the rain impacts the accuracy of the equipment, the work will stop for the rainy months and resume in late Spring 2023. There are a few different sites within the former St. Mary’s grounds that will need to be investigated over the course of the next year or so. Once the work is complete, a report will be generated, and the findings shared.

The event begins at 11 a.m. at Fraser River Heritage Park, and attendees are asked to wear orange, as well as bring their own chairs, snacks, and water. Participants are also welcome to bring your drum and encouraged to join in the drumming. Elder parking is available onsite. Contact Marcy Buell at or 604 826-3103 for an Elder parking pass. Additional parking is available at Heritage Park Middle School and Windebank Elementary.

The event is presented in partnership by Siwal Si’wes Indigenous Education Advisory Council and Members of local Nations, including Sq’éwlets, Leq’á:mel, and Kwantlen, Siwal Si’wes Indigenous Education Department, Mission Public School District 75, Members of the Board of Education, the Mission Friendship Centre and the City of Mission.


Event Contact

Vivian Searwar
District Principal of Indigenous Education
Mission Public School District 75