Orange Shirt Day

September 14, 2021

Orange Shirt Day

“Starting now, we all have the opportunity to show leadership, courage, and conviction in helping heal the wounds of the past as we make a path towards a more just, more fair, and more loving country. This is our beginning; begin that journey of healing.”

- Sen. Murray Sinclair

This September, as we reflect on the immense loss and grief caused by Canada’s residential school system, we are also looking for ways to support the ongoing process of healing and truth telling.

Collecting stories, sharing the truth, and supporting survivors are vital components of reconciliation, which require proper funding. We ask that you support this work by donating to organizations such as the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), or the Woodland Cultural Centre. If you make a donation of $20.00 or greater to any of these organizations, we would be happy to send you an orange shirt to thank you for your contributions.

You can register to receive your orange shirt below.

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Shirts are limited to one per person and donation. Donations must be dated between September 15 and 30, 2021. If you are unable to donate at this time due to financial restraints, but still wish to participate, please contact ashley@knowhistory.ca.

Orange Shirts

The t-shirts were sourced through Brandigenous, an Indigenous-owned wholesale company, and designed by Animikii Inc., an Indigenous-owned digital innovation firm from Victoria, BC.

Tom Spetter, a Lead Designer at Animikii and member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, created the artwork featured on the t-shirt. The design includes a handprint in the traditional art style of Tom’s community, layered with the hand of a child reaching up for support and acknowledgement.

 Our Role

All Canadians have a role to play in reconciliation. As historians, we have a responsibility to share our knowledge of the historical record and help the public understand how the past informs our present. As a settler-owned organization, we know that our role is to support Indigenous peoples and organizations, following their lead and assisting where needed.

In addition to covering the costs of the 1,000 orange t-shirts that will be distributed through this program, we are also making a $5,000.00 donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society on September 30. This year, we were also honoured to provide in-kind archival research services to the NCTR in support of their programming for Truth and Reconciliation Week.

To learn more about Know History's social initatives please visit our Giving Back page.  

The History

Beginning in the 1880s, the Canadian government, in partnership with the Catholic Church and other religious organizations, operated residential schools for Indigenous children. The primary goal was not education, but rather assimilation of Indigenous children into colonial society. Approximately 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools, the last of which closed only 25 years ago in 1996. This system played a key role in Canada’s genocide of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

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Photograph of the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario, taken in 1884. Image Credit: LAC / PA-051882

Children attending the schools experienced hunger, isolation, disease, and abuse. Like Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy who died running away from Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in 1966, many children never returned home. In 1973, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s grandmother gave her an orange shirt to take with her to the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, British Columbia. Six-year-old Webstad, of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, had her new orange shirt taken from her upon entry to the school. Webstad’s shirt has become a symbol for the history and legacy of residential schools, with Orange Shirt Day marked each September 30. This year, September 30 will be officially recognized as the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

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