Orange Shirt Day is celebrated annually on September 30 in honor of the indigenous Canadian children who were sent to residential schools and forced to assimilate into the dominant Canadian culture. This day reminds us to support the survivors and stand against all forms of racism, including systemic racism, and bullying in our societies.
History of Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day was created to honor the legacy of the Inuit and Metis children in Canada, who were forcefully taken from their parents and sent off to residential schools between the 1830s and the 1980s. The day is celebrated to acknowledge the healing that is still taking place in the lives of those affected.
Residential schools were a network of boarding- and day schools funded by the government of Canada. The ultimate goal of the schools was to isolate the children from their indigenous cultures and, in doing so, went as far as preventing them from speaking their ancestral languages. Schools were built at significant distances from indigenous communities to reduce parental visits. In total, about 150,000 children were sent to residential schools. Students were subjected to overcrowding, malnourishment, poor medical care, as well as physical and sexual abuse.
The creation of Orange Shirt Day is tied to the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project reunion event held in 2013 when Phylis Westbad shared her experience with the world. Just before leaving her family for residential school at the age of six, Phylis was given an orange shirt by her grandmother. However, when she arrived at the school, the shirt was seized and she never saw it again. From then on, the orange shirt symbolizes the systematic stripping away of local cultures and the unfortunate experiences the children had to face.
The motto of the day is “Every Child Matters” — even if they’re adults now. It is a reminder that irrespective of culture, race, and religion, every child deserves equal opportunities and fair treatment.
Orange Shirt Day timeline
After a 17-day protest, Blue Quills becomes the first indigenously administered school in Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issues a public apology to the affected people.
The National Center for Truth and Reconciliation is established.
In former residential schools, hundreds of unmarked graves are discovered.
Orange Shirt Day FAQs
Are there still residential schools in Canada?
No. The last residential school in Canada was shut down in 1996.
Why was September 30 chosen to mark Orange Shirt Day?
September was chosen because it was the time of the year that children were taken to residential schools.
Were the school’s survivors ever compensated?
Yes. Financial compensation was given to some survivors by the Government of Canada.
How to Observe Orange Shirt Day
Stand in solidarity with survivors and against all forms of racism by wearing an orange shirt. If you’re a school or organization, make it a special day by encouraging members to wear orange.
Learning history’s mistakes prevents us from repeating them. Do more research about the history of Orange Shirt Day in order to better sympathize with survivors.
Let the spirit behind the day inspire you to be kinder to everyone around you, irrespective of race or religion. Live out its principles, not just for one day but on every day of the year.
5 Surprising Facts About The Color Orange
Prior to the late 1400s, orange was known as yellow-red in Europe.
Color of nobles
During the Elizabethan era, only nobles were allowed to wear the color orange.
Color of entertainment
In Europe and America, orange, alongside yellow, is most commonly associated with amusement and entertainment.
Color of warning
Orange is used to alert people of potential danger, which is why it is used as the color for lifejackets, buoys, and traffic cones.
Color of causes
Apart from Orange Shirt Day, orange is also worn to raise awareness for other causes such as animal cruelty and A.D.H.D.
Why Orange Shirt Day is Important
Orange Shirt Day is another day to stand against racism and bullying. It reminds us to respect and love one another in spite of our differences.
Support for the hurt
Orange Shirt Day reminds survivors that they are not alone. We know their stories and we support them on the journey towards healing.
The experiences of the children who were so terribly abused can never be forgotten. However, this day creates a safe space to talk about those experiences, which will, in turn, facilitate their recovery.
Orange Shirt Day dates