National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | Sept 30th Orange Shirt Day

September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Also known as Orange Shirt Day, this date commemorates the expanse of time from the 1860s to the 1990s. During this period, close to 150,000 Inuit, Metis, and First Nations children were taken from their parents and sent to residential schools. In Canada, 134 residential schools were operated and supported by the federal government, churches, and missionary organizations.

Due to the backing from these institutions, the children had little hope or optimism. And this sombre period became the bedrock for…

The History of the Orange Shirt

The children endured tremendous grief upon being forcibly removed from their homes, coerced into speaking English and French, and isolated from their cultural traditions and way of life.

Among these children was a young girl by the name of Phyllis Webstad. Upon her first day of residential school, she sported a shiny orange shirt – bought by her grandmother. She was stripped of her shirt and forced into the cold and unwelcoming environment of the residential school. Here, she was made to feel devalued and inferior in every way; she was cut off from loved ones, separated from her ancestral language and traditions, and pressed to embrace Christianity to integrate into Canadian society. Years later, this experience would prompt Webstad to start Orange Shirt Day.

The Significance of the Orange Shirt Today

Exemplified with an orange shirt, this day honours and remembers the First Nations children separated from their families. It pays tribute to the 150,000 kids taken and 5,000 who didn’t make it back. The orange shirt represents a journey of restoration and recovery from that dark period. It symbolizes healing and a commitment to the conviction that every child matters.

The pain still lingers for the survivors and their families of the residential schools; it’s difficult to forget. To this day, many are still trying to manage the abuse and trauma associated with that time.

Orange Shirt Day on September 30th is a day to reflect and remember the atrocities that took place to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. This aim can be accomplished by listening to the stories of survivors, hearing their truths, and continuing to move forward with reconciliation in our hearts.

In Summary

In 2021, the Canadian government dignified the sufferings of First Nations kids and their families by declaring Sept. 30th Orange Shirt Day; a national statutory holiday. And while it doesn’t erase the cruelties of the past, the acknowledgement is certainly a step in the right direction. Furthermore, many resources have been made available to residential school survivors.

Don't do this alone if you are one of them (or know someone who is). Asking for help is a sign of strength and can assist with the mental and psychological damage caused by these past atrocities. If you need guidance, numerous outreach programs are within reach. Below is the contact information for some of the available resources:

Legacy of Hope Foundation in Ontario: 1-877-553-7177

Indian Residential School Survivors Society British Columbia: (604) 985-4464

Crisis Line for School Survivors and Family: 1-800-721-0066 or website

National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls MMIWG Crisis Toll-Free: 1-844-413-6649

Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310

Online Chat:

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Alberta: 1-888-495-6588

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Saskatchewan: 1-866-250-1529

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Manitoba: 1-866-818-3505

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Ontario: 1-888-301-6426

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Quebec: 1-877-583-2965

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Atlantic: 1-866-414-8111

Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program Northern Region: 1-866-509-1769

Sky Strategics: Private consultation with registered Psychologist Dr. Kathy Thunderchild, 403 287-8000

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