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Orange Shirt Day Design Places Focus on the Guardians

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
September 7th, 2023

A safe and supportive future for Indigenous children was the creative fuel used for second-year student Payton Maffioli’s Orange Shirt Day design that will be worn across the Selkirk College region on September 30.

The chosen design for 2023 features two bear pawprints, a smaller cub’s mark inside the mother’s protective imprint is surrounded by a sacred circle that includes two feathers and the words “every child matters” written in the language of the Secwépemc peoples. A student in the Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program based out of the Castlegar Campus, Maffioli tapped into her Métis culture and a desire to create a more sustainable future for inspiration.

“It makes me want to cry, I’m really proud to have this design on the shirt and in the community,” says the 19-year-old. “This goes beyond a shirt, it needs to be in everyone’s hearts and everyone’s minds what truth and reconciliation is… what protecting our children should be. I am very passionate about strong futures for children and it makes me very emotional.”

The 2023 shirts are now available at the Selkirk College bookstore with proceeds and donations going to the Orange Shirt Society and the Kuu-us Crisis Line.

Connecting to Culture and Gaining Deeper Understanding 

Maffioli grew up in the Grand Forks area where from her early days in elementary school was drawn to activities involving Indigenous art and culture. In middle school, an aunt traced her father’s linage to a great-great-great grandmother who was an orphan in Manitoba’s Red River Colony.

“Selkirk College Elder Donna Wright says when we are born into this world, we belong already because of the air that we breathe,” Maffioli says. “When I found out that I was Métis, I felt like I belonged even more. This culture that I have been learning about since elementary school, it has always held such a deep part of me and I didn’t really know why. When I found out, it made so much sense because it is part of me… it’s who I am.”

With full support of her parents and family, Maffioli continued her learning journey through high school. She connected with Indigenous Elders and helped provide education to peers through art, craft, drumming and understanding of the past. Graduating as part of the Grand Forks Secondary School’s Class of 2022, Maffioli was emboldened to continue strengthening her knowledge at the post-secondary level.

Finding the perfect Selkirk College program to start her next educational chapter, Maffioli’s passion for protecting the biodiversity in our forests and creating a more sustainable planet was opened wide during her first year of studies. Eyeing an ultimate career in environmental law, she is embracing the education and skills instilled by instructors in the School of Environment & Geomatics.

“I love being outdoors almost every day doing the labs and collecting data, because doing this good work will ultimately make the world a better place,” says Maffioli, who is also the current chair of the Selkirk College Students’ Union.

Wear Orange on September 30 

Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 when Phyllis (Jack) Webstad began telling the story of her first day at residential school near Williams Lake when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl. The annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30 opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of residential schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools and the legacy they have left behind.

“Wearing orange symbolizes the loss that we have gone through, it symbolizes the rage and anger we have felt from losing our children and having families torn apart,” Maffioli explains. “But orange also symbolizes hope, the truth and reconciliation that we can bring into our communities. What Indigenous people went through was genocide and people may think that it was in the past, but it still impacts Indigenous populations. We need to work together to make this better.”

With her design now an important part of the local truth and reconciliation journey, Maffioli is honoured to play a small role in deeper understanding.

“It makes me feel hopeful,” she says. “I have a lot of hope with our generation and the awareness we have of our Indigenous culture. There is still change that needs to be made, but I have trust in our youth, in our students and in our education that we will be able to make that change for the better.”

Learn more about Selkirk College’s 94 Days of Education & Action that is leading up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2023.

Categories: EducationGeneral

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