Orange Shirt Day was created four years ago during the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project in Williams Lake, BC. Phyllis Webstad, a former residential school student, told the story of her first day at residential school when the new orange shirt bought by her grandmother was taken from her. The story prompted the realization that many survivors have similar stories.

Meet Phyllis Webstad and hear her story here: 

Indian Residential Schools had a profound effect on the culture and language of Indigenous people across Canada, and forever changed the lives of thousands of Aboriginal children. The orange shirt taken from one child is a symbol of the many losses experienced by thousands of indigenous students, their families and communities over several generations. Wearing the colour orange is a way to acknowledge losses of family, language, culture, freedom, parenting, self-esteem and worth – and the painful experiences of abuse and neglect that undermine children’s self-esteem.

Orange Shirt Day is marked in schools and communities on September 30, a date chosen both because it is the time of year when children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it sets the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying in the coming school year. This year the day is being marked on September 29, since the actual day is a Saturday.

Wear an orange shirt to honour those who survived Indian Residential Schools and remember those that didn’t. It’s an opportunity to listen, keep the discussion on all aspects of residential school open, learn and understand.

Watch a news clip about the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project.