Orange Shirt Day was the precursor to National Day For Truth and Reconciliation, both of which are meant to recognize and honour those who endured the Indian Residential Schooling system in Canada.
This day began with Phyllis Webstad who shared her story in 2013.
At the young age of 6-year-old, Webstad had her shiny orange shirt taken from her when she arrived at St. Joseph Mission residential school.
Her story created an opportunity for discussion on the aspects and experiences of the residential school legacy that was quickly supported in schools across the country.
Canadians began buying orange shirts from approved Orange Shirt Day-based organizations who donate all proceeds to creating awareness and providing education about the toll residential schools took on Canada.
- What to know about Vancouver Island’s residential schools prior to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- Bike ride for Truth and Reconciliation returns to Victoria to honour residential school survivors
- The South Island Powwow set to take place this month at Royal Athletic Park
In Victoria, Orange Shirt Day, or Xe Xe Smun’ Eem, is run by residential school survivor Eddy Charlie and his close friend Kristin Spray.
It started in 2015 and has grown since then and has been successful thus far in spreading awareness and giving first-hand accounts of what residential schools were like.
They sell official Orange Shirt Day Victoria merchandise that helps them in their mission.
Charlie frequently says that this is an issue which Canadians need to think of more than just one day a year.
Recognizing and honouring those who did and did not survive residential schooling is just one facet of reconciliation, but it is a good starting point.
All Indigenous Canadians have been catastrophically impacted by these systems of cultural genocide, even today’s generation.
“I want to release what is inside of me,” said Charlie.
“All that fear. All that anger. All that pain. I want all of Canada to know why we are the way we are today.”
The design for their shirts is done by a local Vancouver Island artist, Bear Horne.
According to Orange Shirt Day Victoria, his design features a bear to help Indigenous folks follow the right path, an eagle to help them have a vision of a bright future, a hummingbird to keep their minds, bodies and spirits healthy and a flower to feed the connection of all these elements.
His design is emblazoned on shirts, blankets, sweaters and more.
Here are all the places you can pick up official Orange Shirt Day Victoria merchandise to aid them in their important mission:
- Annex Fitness
- 645 Yates Street
- Barb’s Bakery & Bistro
- 121 McPhillips Avenue, Salt Spring Island
- Big Wheel Burger
- 172 Wilson Street, #210
- 341 Cook Street
- 771 Vernon Avenue, #703
- Cafe Fantastico
- 965 Kings Road
- Discovery Coffee
- 1001 Blanshard Street
- MĀ Yoga
- 539 Herald Street
- Politanos Cafe
- 109-7088 W Saanich Road, Brentwood Bay
- Shampoo Hair Bar
- 1272 May Street
- 541 Johnson Street
- Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
- 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney
- Vancouver Island Brewing
- 2330 Government Street
- Victory Barber & Brand
- 1315 Blanshard Street
In the Orange Shirt Day Victoria online store, supporters can purchase their shirts, blankets and hoodies as well as other merchandise that helps their mission.
They also have books like Every Child Matters by Phyllis Webstad and Karlene Harvey, Picking up the Pieces by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson, Phyllis’s Orange Shirt and The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Websatd and Brock Nicol as well as Orange Shirt Society by Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley.
They also have custom socks, candles, buttons and a coffee blend from Discovery Coffee.
For those who already have an orange shirt but are wanting to support Orange Shirt Day Victoria, they are accepting donations through GoFundMe to help support their vision of reconciliation.
As of this publication, they’ve raised over $7,500 of their total goal of $20,000.