Honoring Orange Shirt Day: Amplifying Indigenous Voices and Stories

Starting on September 30, 2013, Canada has acknowledged Orange Shirt Day, known today as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day. However, for the Indigenous population on Turtle Island, the story of Orange Shirt Day and the truth of Canadian Residential Schools has long been known. Orange Shirt Day brings awareness to the residential school system that was present from 1870- 1996 in Canada.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

The orange shirt is in reference to residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad’s experience at St. Joseph Mission Residential School: on her first day, the staff took away the orange shirt that her mother gave her. Not only did they take the shirt, but they also tried to take her culture, family, and identity.

Orange Shirt Day honors survivors, intergenerational survivors, and those who didn’t make it home. September 30 is an opportunity for all people to learn and engage with the legacies of residential schools.

It is our responsibility to listen, learn, and raise up the voices of those in the community, so we’ve put together a collection of work to help you get started.

To Read

The cover to "Life in the City of Dirty Water"
Photo: Penguin Random House Canada

Winnipeg, Cree for “dirty water”, is where Clayton Thomas Muller found the name of his autobiography – Life in the City of Dirty Water. He tells the story of his life growing up in Winnipeg, as well as spending time in British Columbia. From his childhood to becoming a climate activist, the trials and tribulations are vast and the author reflects these so beautifully in his book.

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience by Helen Knott is a life-changing book. She speaks about her struggles with addiction and how she brought herself back for her son, her family, and herself. It showcases resilience as well as Indigenous power and strength.

From the Ashes is Jesse Thistle’s story, and is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It follows his life from foster care, through the cycle of addiction, to him turning his life around and finding his way back to his Métis-Cree culture and family.

To Listen

William Prince is an award-winning musician from Manitoba, originally born in Selkirk, then moved with his family to Peguis First Nation. His music is so profound and conveys power and humility through lyrics. Prince’s work is relatable; though he writes from his own perspective, it relates back to community and the larger questions and emotions we face.

All My Relations podcast explores what it means to be Indigenous today. On the show they discuss topics like fashion, relationships, identity, and politics, and bring on guests to chat further and to share a wider range of experiences. The hosts wanted to share the reality, past stereotypes, and misrepresentations and show the beauty and strength of these communities.

Stolen Season 2: Surviving St. Michael’s is a podcast produced by Gimlet and Spotify. It follows an investigative journalist, Connie Walker, and her story of discovering her late father’s past. Durning this investigation she uncovers how her family’s story connects to Canada’s history of Residential Schools.

To Look

Kent Monkman is a Cree visual artist. He is known for his thought-provoking pieces that center around themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience found in his and others’ Indigenous experiences. The topics that his works highlight are complex issues, creating a space to have meaningful conversations.

Christi Belcourt is a visual artist as well as a designer, community organizer, environmentalist, social justice advocate and so much more. With respect for her peoples’ traditions and knowledge, she creates works that celebrates her community. Belcourt is inspired by traditional Métis floral beadwork, which is why she created her pieces using dots.

Indigenous voices are all around us. Let’s listen, share, and raise them up. There is power in storytelling and it’s one way we can all have an impact.


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