By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4)– Sept. 30 is Orange Shirt Day in Canada. People wear an orange shirt to raise awareness for the boys and girls killed and abused at Indigenous boarding schools.

(credit: CBS)

Recently the trend has caught on in the United States and this year for the first time, the Denver Indian Family Resource Center is holding a healing celebration to honor those affected.

“I would say most Native people in their family have had or been a boarding school survivor,” says Alyssa Willie a Family Engagement Specialist with the Denver Indian Family Resource Center.

In the nineteenth century, the United States established Native American residential schools. Willie says the goal was to erase the children’s Native cultures and there were harsh penalties for resistance.

(credit: Denver Indian Family Resource Center)

“If they spoke their language they were abused,” she says. “Strict discipline. Harsh discipline. Basically abuse. Physically. Mentally, and sexually.”

These schools were all over the nation including in Colorado at the Teller School in Grand Junction. That’s why the DIFRC is holding an event Saturday at noon on the DU campus, but instead of reliving the trauma, the center is focusing on the future.

Willie says, “Our event on Saturday is to provide a space for healing and advocacy.”

The event is open to the public. They will have singing, dancing, speakers and resources for Native families. They hope it will help not only the Denver Native community, but also educate the larger Colorado community.

“We hope to see people there,” says Willie.

(credit: Denver Indian Family Resource Center)

It’s important to remember these abuses took place not that long ago. In some families just one generation back. Saturday is the healing event for those families so they ask that you be respectful if you go. If you would like to attend you can find more information here:

To help out with a financial donation you can donate on the Denver Indian Family Resource Center’s website.

Michael Abeyta