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Tribal Affairs

Downtown Billings Turns Orange During Healing Walk For Indigenous Boarding School Survivors

A crowd gathers in downtown Billings on Sept. 24, 2021 for the Every Child Matters Healing Walk held in honor of Indigenous boarding school victims and survivors.
Taylar Stagner
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
A crowd gathers in downtown Billings on Sept. 24, 2021 for the Every Child Matters Healing Walk held in honor of Indigenous boarding school victims and survivors.

In downtown Billings Friday the Native American Development Corporation and Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Center held a march to remember victims of Indian boarding schools, where many Indigenous children were abused.

People burned sage and sweetgrass while they marched in remembrance of loved ones long gone or friends still affected by the atrocities committed at Indian boarding schools throughout Montana and the United States.

 Every Child Matters Healing Walk participants march through downtown Billings on Sept. 24, 2021.
Taylar Stagner
Every Child Matters Healing Walk participants march through downtown Billings on Sept. 24, 2021.

Most people wore orange to commemorate the story of First Nations woman Phyllis Jack Webstad, who remembers her grandmother giving her an orange shirt before leaving to a residential school as a child. When she got to the residential school they took away her shirt and gave her a uniform.

As an adult, Webstad created Orange Shirt Day in Canada, and now Indigenous communities in the U.S. have adopted the color orange to remember those affected by these boarding schools.

This summer, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced an initiative to look into the impact of these Bureau of Indian Affairs-run schools as thousands of student bodies are found in Canada and the U.S.

Taylar Stagner is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America Indigenous Affairs reporter.