Geraldine Catalbas, a grade 11 student at Ponoka, shares the message “Every Child Matters” in a big way as this year’s winner of the official Orange Shirt Day 2022 design.
The competition was organized by the Orange Shirt Society and Tolko Industries Ltd.
Catalbas said his design has two meanings: it is in remembrance of children who lost their lives in residential schools and also celebrates the triumph of survivors as they overcome their past.
The design depicts shoes that represent children who died in residential schools. The laces that stand out in an eagle represent their freedom in the skies and their fight through hard times.
After seeing a children’s shoe memorial placed on the steps of a church in Ermineskin, one of the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Catalbas wanted to know more about what it meant.
She also decided to create the design to honor the parents and grandparents of her First Nations friends who are residential school survivors.
“They’re still fighting, they’re still strong and they’re changing and making it known,” Catalbas said.
“I have to make this special,” Catalbas thought to himself.
She submitted her design in the fall of 2021. Her design was chosen from entries submitted from across Canada, and she will receive a prize of $200.
Catalbas will be flown by sponsor Tolko Industries to meet Phyllis Webstad on Orange Shirt Day on September 30, 2022, to further discuss reconciliation and acknowledge winning the contest (provided travel is deemed safe in due to COVID restrictions). Six-year-old Webstad had her orange shirt taken away when she entered boarding school in 1973.
Each year, Indigenous and non-Indigenous children from K-12 across Canada can submit a drawing for the official Orange Shirt Day contest.
All young people are encouraged to join the conversation by highlighting what design means to them, for consideration by the company’s board of directors.
The Orange Shirt Society is a non-profit organization based in Williams Lake, British Columbia, where Orange Shirt Day began in 2013. The society’s goals are to support residential school reconciliation; raise awareness of the intergenerational impacts of residential schools on individuals, families, and communities through the activities of the Orange Shirt Society; and raise awareness of the concept of “Every child matters”.
“We want Orange Shirt Day to be about the cause – the tragedy of residential schools and the ongoing intergenerational trauma that many Indigenous peoples experience. Supporting reconciliation is more than wearing an orange shirt,” Melissa Lundy, program manager for the Orange Shirt Society, said in a press release.
“It’s about learning the truth, remembering the children who lost their lives, and supporting future generations,” Lundy said.
Catalbas has been creating graphic art for about a year and says she loves it because she can express emotions through her art.
Being selected as the winner of the competition hasn’t really sunk in yet, she says.
“It’s like nothing happened,” Catalbas said. “When you look at the broader aspect of Canada and it’s going to be around Canada…it’s very shocking.”