Things to do on Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day, also called National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, is observed yearly on September 30 in Canada. It’s a day for all Canadians to reflect, learn and engage in discussion about the residential school system. It’s a chance for all Canadians to learn about the country’s colonial history and how it has – and continues – to impact Indigenous communities today. It is a day to remember the children who never came home.
The residential school system was a series of schools founded by the Canadian government, and administered by Christian churches, in the late 1800s as a way to assimilate and indoctrinate Indigenous children into white Canadian culture. Children were taken from their families and forced to go to schools away from their homelands, culture and way of life.
Origins of Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day officially began in 2013, as a way to bring light to the injustices faced by survivors of Canada’s residential school system. It was founded by Phyllis Webstad, who is Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. At just 6 years old, Webstad was forced to attend St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. In interviews, Phyllis notes that the inspiration for the colour orange came from the new orange shirt that she wore when she arrived at the school. She recounts that her grandmother bought an orange shirt for her, which she was then stripped of when arriving at St. Joseph Mission. The shirt was never returned to her. The orange shirt now symbolizes how the residential school system took away the identities and culture of its students.
Sept. 30 was made a statutory holiday in 2021, after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation confirmed the discovery of about 200 potential burial sites on the grounds of a Kamloops Indian Residential School in July that year.
Listen, Learn, Engage.
This National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we encourage you to engage and educate yourself, your family and your community about the residential school system, the history of Canada, and legacy of colonialism. We encourage you to attend events in your community to better learn and engage. We have compiled a list of events for you to consider attending.
Organizations to Donate to
- The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS)
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR)
- Orange Shirt Society
- Home on Native Land
- 48 books to read to learn about Residential School listed by CBC
- 10 Children’s Books about Residential School
- Namwayut – Chief Robert Joseph. Watch his video here
Feel free to share widely and post more resources in the comments!