Beyond Orange Shirt Day

Like many Canadians, I’m horrified and saddened by stories that continue to come out about the mistreatment, past and present day, of Indigenous people in this country. So I’m pleased to know that starting tomorrow, we will be honouring the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities with a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which coincides with Orange Shirt Day.

Wearing an orange shirt on September 30 is a way of saying you understand and care about the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. But clearly we need to go beyond wearing an orange shirt. We need to learn all we can about the history and culture of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. There are many great books to help us do that.

Included in the CBC’s recent list of books by Indigenous authors are links to interviews with those authors. Two books by Richard Wagamese, about whom I have blogged previously, are on the list.

The CBC list also includes a good number of children’s books, including two that explain how an orange shirt came to symbolize the harm done to Indigenous children by the residential school system.

IBBY Canada has an even more comprehensive, downloadable catalogue of Indigenous picture books.

On October 5, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre will launch a related resource, created by Ojibway librarian and educator, Linda Lou Classens, to help teachers and parents select and share books from the collection with the children in their classes and families.

Of course there are non-book resources available that raise awareness of Indigenous history and culture too. My sister drew my attention to a free online course that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada from an Indigenous perspective. It’s a 12-week course and I was so thrilled to see that you can learn at your own pace that I registered right away.

I hope National Truth and Reconciliation Day reminds us all to continue learning (Truth) so we’re better positioned to take steps toward Reconciliation.

Do you have any resources — books or otherwise — to recommend? 

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. trudee on September 29, 2021 at 11:19 am

    Yes! I’m currently reading/listening to Katherine Vermette’s novel The Break and it’s incredible at piecing together the many various impacts that settler culture in general has damaged Indigenous people.

    Also, Canadian Geographic in conjunction with several Indigenous organizations has created a new book (published by Kids Can Press) entitled the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada. It looks like a terrific resource, and if you purchase it through the website , an Indigenous-owned business, 5% of proceeds goes toward funding libraries for Indigenous communities.

    I really hope that all citizens of Canada find a suitable way to mark this important day tomorrow.

    Hope you’re well, Kathy!

    • Kathy on September 29, 2021 at 12:21 pm

      Katherena Vermette’s *The Break* is a great recommendation, Trudee. A difficult read but I look forward to her new book, The Strangers, nonetheless.

      Thanks for the tip about where to purchase *Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada* so that some of the proceeds go toward funding libraries in Indigenous communities. Would you mind checking the link you provided? It didn’t work for me.

      Also, when I looked up the title you mentioned on goodreads, it appears that Kids Can isn’t connected with it —
      But KCP did publish *The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada*: .

      Tomorrow we’re visiting friends who, when we were meeting only by zoom, read to each other for a few minutes during each visit. I’ve suggested we do that even though we’re meeting in person, this time from a book by an Indigenous author. A small way of acknowledging the importance of Truth and Reconciliation Day and what it hopes to achieve.

      • trudee on September 29, 2021 at 1:04 pm

        Huh. That’s weird. The Goodminds page says the publisher in Kids Can.

        Here’s a link that should work:

        Enjoy your visit!

        • Kathy on September 29, 2021 at 1:17 pm

          That is strange, isn’t it. Looks like a great book regardless!

  2. Janet Barclay on September 30, 2021 at 8:26 am

    I’m currently reading The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, which is a real eye-opener, and I mentioned some of the other books I’ve read by Canadian indigenous writers on my blog today. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to know.

    • Kathy on September 30, 2021 at 10:34 am

      I found The Inconvenient Indian eye-opening too. King wrote with humour about the history but I heard an edge of anger, understandably, underneath it.

      Since you were too modest to link to your blog post, I’ll offer it here for visitors who’d like to check out your other recommendations:

      • Janet Barclay on September 30, 2021 at 11:21 am

        Thanks, Kathy! I meant to include a link. 🙂

  3. W. S. Rea on September 30, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Thank you, Kathy Stinson, for this information, Your statement about how learning (Truth) can lead to Reconciliation is an important way to address this issue.

    CBC Radio 1 in New Brunswick dedicated its morning show to Orange Shirt Day, today being the first to recognize it as a statutory holiday. Candy Palmater described several books for adult readers that I will share with you. They are:

    Non-Fiction: Seven Fallen Feathers by Tania Talaga The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. The illustrated version is recommended.
    Out of the Depths by Isabelle Knockwood My Conversation with Canadians by Lee Maracal

    Novels: Five Little Indians by Michelle Good Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

    I have so much to learn and this is a good start for me. Thanks for the nudge, Kathy Stinson!


    • Kathy on September 30, 2021 at 10:37 am

      Candy Palmater’s recommendations include several books I haven’t read yet that I will look into. I didn’t know there was an illustrated version of The Inconvenient Indian now. Thanks for passing these titles along, Wendy.

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