September 30 is an annual day to recognize and raise awareness about the residential school system in Canada, join together in the spirit of reconciliation, and honour the experiences of Indigenous Peoples. Between the late 1800s and 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attended Indian residential schools – Orange Shirt Day commemorates this legacy.

#orangeshirtdayUBC  | September 30

UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) seeks to raise awareness about Orange Shirt Day and its meaning to affect positive change within the UBC community by providing opportunities and approaches to reflect on complex historical legacies, personal experiences and community.


Wear orange

Order a T-shirt, button or other materials from the Orange Shirt Society, or purchase a shirt from UBC Bookstore (while supplies last). Wear orange to show your support on September 30.

Learn about the origins

Who is Phyllis Webstad and what does Orange Shirt Day mean for residential school Survivors?

Explore, share and act

Explore our resources and share them with colleagues, friends or family to raise awareness about the ongoing legacy of residential schools.


Upcoming events

“The Orange Shirt Story” with Phyllis Webstad

UBC Learning Circle and the First Nations House of Learning

Tuesday, September 22, from 9:30-11a.m.

Open to all ages

Every Child Matters: Reconciliation through Education

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Wednesday, September 30, from 7 – 11 a.m. (PST)

For youth grades 5-12 and educators

Orange Shirt Day at UBC

Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Wednesday, September 30

Engage online with resources, reflect and learn more.

Orange Shirt Day 2020

Shingwauk Residential School Centre

Wednesday, September 30, from 10 – 11 a.m. (PST)

Virtual tour with Survivors for all ages


Origins of Orange Shirt Day

“The colour orange has always reminded me of that, and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared, and how I felt I was worth nothing.”

Phyllis Webstad

Six-year-old Phyllis Webstad was excited about her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, B.C. in 1973. Her granny had bought her a new, bright orange shirt for the occasion. But when she proudly arrived at the church-run residential school, she was stripped of her clothes, and her hair was cut. Her new shirt was taken away and she never got it back.

St Joseph Cariboo
St. Joseph’s Residential School, also known as Cariboo School, was opened by Roman Catholic missionaries in 1891, and closed in 1981. Photo: Oblate Fathers
Phyllis explores the site of the former St. Joseph Residential School.

Phyllis is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). Today she is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society, which encourages local school districts, organizations and the general public to wear orange and discuss the legacy of residential schools annually. 

The annual Orange Shirt Day commemoration on September 30 is an opportunity to discuss the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind. The date was chosen as it is the time of year when children were taken from their homes to residential schools. It also marks the beginning of the school year, and reaffirms that “Every Child Matters.”

Learn more about Phyllis


Resources to share

Between the late 1800s and 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attended Indian residential schools – Orange Shirt Day commemorates this legacy. These resources are a starting point to explore, learn more about residential schools, and begin a dialogue. Share these resources and your learnings with your friends, colleagues, and family.

These days when the steps to stay safe from COVID19 keep many of us physically separate, it may be more difficult to learn about the experiences of residential school students and their families. Please take the time to do something for your mental wellness as part of participating in Orange Shirt Day events.  


Early years

Use When We Were Alone to think about the following questions:

In the story, the words used to describe the narrator’s grandmother are kókum and Nókum (“grandmother” and “my grandmother”).  These are the words in Nókum’s language which is Cree, What words do you use for grandmother in your language? 

How do you think Nókum felt when she was made to wear different clothes and speak a different language at school? Did Nókum have a choice about what she wore or what language she spoke? 

What are some of the things Nókum did with her family before she went away to residential school? Why was Nókum separated from her brother? 


Middle years

Use the Orange Shirt Day handout to reflect on the following questions:

Where was Phyllis from?  What was the name of her home community? 

What happened to Phyllis’s orange shirt when she arrived at school?  How did this experience make Phyllis feel? 

How do you think Phyllis and other children felt while at School?  

Why is it important to Phyllis to share her story?  What impact does it have on others to hear it?  

How do you think hearing support for Phyllis and her story will impact the lives of other Residential School survivors? 

When a person chooses to wear an orange shirt on Orange Shirt Day, what statement are they making? 


Secondary

  • Ask your relatives about what they learned about residential schools. 
  • Watch the residential schools timeline video and then tell someone else about what you learned.
  • Find out if there was a residential school near where you live. Look at the distances between schools and communities.
  • Having trouble finding words to express what you learned? Make some art. 
  • Watch Phyllis Webstad and hear her testimony

Explore the residential schols timeline video and reflect on the resources:

Did you find a residential school in your area?  If so, does this come as a surprise to you? If not, where was the nearest residential school? 

Do you have an older relative who remembers a residential school in your area? What were their perceptions about residential schools? 

Take some more time to reflect on the location of your City, town, or community. In whose traditional territory do you reside?  What is the language spoken? 


Postsecondary

Discussion and reflection questions

Choose a survivor testimony from the Legacy of Hope Foundation.  When doing so, please remember to practice good self care (whatever that looks like for you) before, during and after listening  as these stories can be difficult to listen to. 

While listening, it might be a good idea to draw as you listen, paint, sing or write poetry to help you process what you have heard. 

How did you feel while listening to the story?

Who was the story about and what was their home community?

How did the Residential School experience impact the life of the story teller and the lives of those around them? 

Read the TRC’s Calls to Action and Choose one to focus on.  

  1. Which action have you chosen and why? 
  2. Why do you feel it is significant to act upon these calls?  
  3. Who does this call impact and how? 
Listen to Survivor testimony from the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Speak out, share now

Share resources or a message to continue the conversation: