Message from the Chief – April 12th, 2024

Message from the Chief


Last night I was honoured to meet the inspirational Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, founder and ambassador of the Orange Shirt Society.  Many of us are familiar with Orange Shirt Day, and the sad story of a little girl whose new orange shirt was taken away from her on her first day of Indian Residential School.  This is Phyllis’ story; she was that little girl.

At only 6 years old, Phyllis recounted that in that strange and lonely place, she felt that her life did not matter.  She didn’t understand why she was there, and why she couldn’t go home.  In times of loneliness and despair, she felt there was nobody to comfort her, and the little children turned to one another for support.

It is one thing for us to know of stories like this and to be aware of the tragic legacy of the Indian Residential School.  It is quite another to meet Phyllis and take on this experience from a survivor.  These words last night touched me deeply, I thought of my young girls at home safe in their beds. It is unfathomable to think of this happening to any child.

Phyllis’ message of love and hope, that Every Child Matters, is true blessing arising from this difficult experience that she experienced along with many, many others.

On behalf of the Qalipu First Nation, I want to express my sincere thanks to the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network along with partners the People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre, the Mi’kmaw Cultural Foundation and Ulnooweg, who brought Phyllis to Newfoundland.

I also want to give thanks to Judy Falle, a long-time employee of the Education and Training Department who wrote a children’s Indigenous book that deals with Truth and Reconciliation from a local perspective, Papa and His Drum.  Throughout that journey of writing, researching and publication, Judy reached out to Phyllis for guidance and support.  From that connection, a friendship was forged that ultimately led Phyllis to journey from coast to coast from British Columbia to Newfoundland for the very first time.

We wish Phyllis energy and strength on her journey sharing her message here in Newfoundland, on a four-and-a-half-hour time difference that must be very challenging, and telling a story that brings back her pain again and again.  This sacrifice she makes in sharing her story is to the benefit of all who meet her.

If you’re in or around the Stephenville area, I encourage you to head over to the Lion’s Club tonight from 6-8 where Phyllis will be on hand to meet and speak with community members.



Chief Jenny Brake