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 in 2021— a number that keeps 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. 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.
Local shops are allowing for the purchase or pre-order of orange shirts. Below, we’ve outlined seven 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 is a non-profit registered charity that funds living and work studios for 24 artists in residence at the lodge, run by the Vancouver Native Housing Society. Also available in youth sizes.
This design by Haida artist Shoshannah Greene celebrates “the Indian in the Child” by depicting two children — one wearing a labret — with a copper shield between them, adorned with spruce root hats with two skil (rings). All of the above represents status since children are high-ranking. (Also available in youth sizes)
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. Due to unprecedented demand, they’re no longer selling the shirts online. However, they are selling them in store:
Chantelle Trainor-Matties’ Indigenous Bear Paw shirt symbolizes protection, support and love. The design shows an adult bear paw holding a bear cub’s paw.
Emma Forbes, an Inuk-Caribbean student in Calgary, designed this shirt made from recycled bottles and organic cotton. The Inuksuk represents the Inuit children and families affected by residential schools, while the feather represents the First Nations, and the Infinity symbol represents the Métis. The circle also represents the interconnectedness of Indigenous culture.
Kwakwaka'wakw artist Daniel Puglas drew inspiration from his mother, Sally Williams, who always told him to protect his spirit. The wolf signifies loyalty, family ties, communication, education, understanding and intelligence.
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.
This story was updated June 7, 2022.