Beyond the Orange Shirt

Photo of Kathy Stinson wearing an orange shirt

Are you planning to wear an orange shirt on September 30?

Great. It’s a way of honouring all the children who attended Canada’s Indian residential schools and their families — a visible reminder of the stripping away of culture, freedom, and self-esteem experienced by generations of Indigenous children.

Why orange?

For First Nations going back to antiquity, orange represents sunshine, truth-telling, health, regeneration, strength and power.

In 1973 an Indigenous girl named Phyllis Webstad wore a brand new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, on her first day attending a residential school in B.C. Along with the rest of her clothing, that shirt was taken away from her. She established Orange Shirt Day in 2013.

In 2021 the federal government made Orange Shirt Day our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day, a statutory holiday to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.

In addition to wearing an orange shirt on September 30, you might opt to attend a commemorative event in your community or read a book by an Indigenous author. But how can we express solidarity with Indigenous people the rest of the year?

One way is by supporting Indigenous-owned businesses. Across a wide range of industries, from fashion to food, there are dozens of fantastic Indigenous-owned companies in Canada and the US making a real difference in their communities.

So, why not…

    • wear your orange shirt in recognition of the past wrongs and
    • support Indigenous businesses as a step toward reconciliation?

I hope you’ll keep the list linked to above, and this one (recommended by one of the businesses on the first list, and great places to start your holiday shopping!), refer to it often, and pass it on!

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