Students and teachers across Saskatchewan are wearing the colour orange to recognize residential school survivors and spark a discussion about reconciliation.

Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 in honour of Phyllis Webstad, who was forced to take off her orange shirt on the first day at a residential school in Williams Lake, B.C.

“Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for discussion to happen about residential schools,” Saskatchewan School Boards Association president Dr. Shawn Davidson said in a news release.

“It is important to build understanding about this history of our province and country.”

Schools across the province are recognizing Orange Shirt Day, with events scheduled Friday and throughout the weekend.

Saskatoon’s Oskayak High School marked the day by welcoming hundreds of people, including veterans and former residential school attendees, for an annual powwow Friday morning.

The school’s acting vice-principal, Arliss Coulineur, was part of the final 1995 graduating class of the Bow Valley residential school.

“We were not allowed to, able to, speak our own language, which was our identity,” Coulineur said. “By doing something like this, we’re honouring that, we’re looking at the fact that we are understanding that there was a wrong that was done.”

In Regina, students and staff at Sacred Heart Community School held a special buffalo blessing and revealed a six-foot stuffed buffalo, which will be mounted in a special area.

There was also a special pipe ceremony at the school, which included a special blessing, followed by a traditional mini-feast for all students, staff and invited guests. The event included an Orange Shirt Day liturgy and walk.

“The history of residential schools is an essential part of our history,” Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said.

“While it is embedded throughout our elementary and high school curricula, Orange Shirt Day provides an important opportunity for students and school communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation.”