Orange Shirt Day is observed on September 30th and commemorates the residential school experience, witnesses and honors the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and commits to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
The annual Orange Shirt Day opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind. This discussion is open to all people who can tune in and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. It is a day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those who have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.
The Story Behind Orange Shirt Day
“I went to the Mission for one year. I had just turned 6 years old. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission School in. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had eyelets and lace, and I felt so pretty in that shirt and excited to be going to school! Of course, when I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt. I never saw it again, except on other kids. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! Since then the color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years…I want my orange shirt back!”Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, Dog Creek, BC
This orange shirt taken from one child, is a symbol of the many losses experienced by thousands of students, and their families and communities, over several generations including loss of family, language, culture, freedom, parenting, self-esteem, and worth and painful experiences of abuse and neglect.
Wearing orange shirts is a symbol of defiance against those things that undermine children’s self-esteem and of our commitment to anti-racism and anti-bullying in general. The date was chosen because it is the time of year that children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.
Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for Indigenous People, local governments, schools, and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.
Wearing an orange shirt and promoting the slogan, Every Child Matters is an affirmation of our commitment to raising awareness of the boarding school experience and to ensuring that every child matters as we focus on our hope for a better future in which children are empowered to help each other. Let’s not forget the children but honor them on September 30th.
To learn more about Orange Shirt Day and its impact, visit the website Orangeshirtday.org