Orange Shirt Day originated in 2013 as a result of Indian Residential School survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad discussing her experience when she arrived at the St. Joseph Mission residential school. On her first day at residential school, Phyllis had her her brand new orange shirt taken away from her. Phyllis' experience is used today to teach students about residential schools, their acculturation and assimilation practices, and the long lasting harm they caused.
Participants wear orange Every Child Matters shirts and accessories in observance of the annual event. September 30th was chosen for the annual event because it is the time of year when Indigenous children were taken from their homes and put into residential schools.
What are Indian Residential Schools?
Indigenous Residential Schools were an extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches. Their goal was to educate First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and indoctrinate them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living, and assimilating them into mainstream Canadian society. The residential school system operated from the 1880s until 1996. The system forcibly separated children from their families for long periods of time and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Children were severely punished if these, among other, strict rules were broken. Former students of residential schools have spoken of horrendous abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological (via UBC Indigenous Foundations)