The streets of Port Alberni once again turned orange today, marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but this year brought a particularly significant occasion for the community.
This Sept. 30, on what has been called Orange Shirt Day by First Nations people for several years, marked 50 years since the Alberni Indian Residential School closed. The institution was first established as a day school for local First Nations children on the Tseshaht reserve in 1892, taking students into residential quarters the following year. The institution went through multiple buildings over the following years, and was transferred from the federal government to the United Church of Canada in 1925. The Government of Canada took back control in 1969, and the Alberni Indian Residential School closed for good in 1973, amid urging from the West Coast District Council of Indian Chiefs.
Well over 1,000 people participated in the Orange Shirt Day walk this year, which began at the Barclay Hotel at about 11 a.m., progressing down to the Victoria Quay and along River Road. The procession ended at Maht Mahs, where AIRS once stood. Speeches, food and cultural performances followed for those present, into the evening.