Orange Shirt Day is about recognizing and reflecting on the harm of the Canadian residential school system. It grew out of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph Mission Residential School. The date for Orange Shirt Day was chosen because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools.
You can take part in Orange Shirt Day by:
- Wearing an Orange Shirt on September 30th
- Organizing or participating in an event
- Learning the shared colonial history of what we now call Canada.
- Recognize that colonization isn’t just our shared history, it is our shared present too
- Learning about local Indigenous history, culture, ceremony and world views
- Ask your schools and teachers to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into your education
- Start or continue the work of reconciliation and decolonization through education, ally-ship or reclaiming of your knowledge, culture and rights
We’ve never done reconciliation before, so sometimes it can be hard to imagine. It’s a pretty big idea. It happens in big ways through demanding changes in government actions or with how and what schools teach and in small ways through the actions we personally take. A road map of 94 recommendations has been set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)There will be moments where people stumble or try something that doesn’t work, but the important thing is to stay committed to working together.
Colonization is not just a thing of the past. It continues to happen today. But for every act of harm to Indigenous peoples, there have also been acts of resiliency and resistance. Building a better future for all people now living on this land means taring down colonial systems, returning land to its original people, honouring the treaties and so much more. That might sound like a big task to take on, but there are many groups already doing this work. We are stronger together. Seek out like-minded folks, and active groups doing the work of decolonization and reconciliation. Follow social media accounts that share information, and draw attention to things going on across the land that regular media doesn’t always show us. If you can, donate to groups doing front-line work. They often need food, supplies, and sometimes legal fund support. A good starting place for reconciliation is through education, but education without action is not enough.