Orange Shirt Day is held every year on September 30 to honour the healing journey of residential school survivors and bring awareness to the need for reconciliation. Named after Phyllis Webstad’s favourite orange shirt—taken away from her in 1973 on her first day of residential school—this day has grown from a local event in her community of Williams Lake, B.C. to a statutory holiday.
Since the discovery of the 215 Indigenous children’s bodies in the mass grave at Kamloops Residential School — a number that just keeps on climbing as truth is uncovered at more schools — flags across the country have been flown at half-mast and people have been wearing orange shirts to show their solidarity and commitment to reconciliation.
This year, many activists are encouraging the wearing of orange shirts for Canada Day, too. Educators like Ian Powell of North Vancouver are underlining the importance of reconsidering what makes us Canadian, as settlers of the stolen land on which we reside.
Many local shops are allowing for the purchase or pre-order of orange shirts leading up to September 30. Below, we’ve outlined five designs by local organizations or creators and where the proceeds will be donated to Indigenous causes that will help advance reconciliation and keep these conversations going.
This text-only design is available at Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel & Gallery ($25), which isa non-profit registered charity who funds living and work studios for 24 artists in residence at the lodge, run by the Vancouver Native Housing Society,
The above shirt was designed by Grade 11 student Shayne Hommy from Dawson Creek, B.C. His Moosum attended residential school and he sees Orange Shirt Day as a chance for justice and awareness for Indigenous people. The design showcases three Indigenous girls from different tribes holding hands to represent the unity, resilience and strength of Indigenous People.
Local Indigenous artist KC Hall designed this shirt for the Urban Native Youth Association. They are available in both adult and youth sizes, all of the proceeds go to UNYA.
A 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line to support former residential school students, and those affected, can be reached any time at 1-866-925-4419.