Orange Shirt Day 2021

Orange Shirt Day is an annual national event that is held on September 30th. It is a day to honour Residential School survivors and their families, and to remember those who did not survive. Orange Shirt Day started as a movement to bring forward the truth about Canada’s Residential School system. This year is the first year that Canada acknowledged this date as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Keep reading for more background on Orange Shirt Day, and information on how we acknowledged this important date at Gordon Neighbourhood House. We also shared further resources earlier this year, which can be found HERE.

Orange Shirt Day Background

Residential Schools were in existence from 1831 until 1996. They were government funded, and church run “schools”, established to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian society. The goal of these schools was to break the children’s ties to their language, traditions and families. Many children experienced the worst neglect and abuse imaginable at the hands of their teachers and people responsible for running the schools. Several thousand children died while under the care of the government. (resource: www.cedarhilllonghouse.ca)

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s account of losing her shiny new orange shirt on her first day of school at the Mission, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.  September 30 was chosen because children are back in school and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the year. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and community agencies to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

“I want to release what is inside of me. All that fear. All that anger. All that pain. I want all of Canada to know why we are the way we are today.” – EDDY CHARLIE

Eddy Charlie, Kristin Spray & Bear Horne

Xe Xe Smun’eem – Victoria Orange Shirt Day is an annual event in the city of Victoria to honor and recognize Residential School survivors. The event is held each September 30th in Downtown Victoria.

Victoria Orange Shirt Day was initiated in 2015 by Residential School survivor Eddy Charlie and his friend Kristin Spray while attending the Indigenous Studies program at Camuson College. Today, the event is attended by thousands of people from across the city of Victoria seeking to recognize the sacrifices of residential school survivors.

Eddy and Kristin have made enormous contributions to the Orange Shirt Day movement. Together, they have volunteered tens of thousands of hours to raise awareness about residential schools, meeting with community groups, public officials, schools and anyone else interested in honouring survivors. They routinely provide workshops for neighbourhood house staff. Eddy and Kristin also order and distribute orange shirts to members of the community looking to participate in Orange Shirt Day.

The design was created by Tsawout Artist Bear Horne. Bear’s design includes a bear to help us follow the right path, an eagle to help us have a vision of a bright future, a hummingbird to keep our mind, body and spirit healthy, and a flower to feed the connection of all these elements.

This year The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC bought and distributed 365 Xe Xe Smun’eem Orange Shirts and 54 copies of Phyllis Webstad‘s books in the lead up to September 30th. We chose to distribute Xe Xe Smun’eem Orange Shirts based on a decades-long relationship between Gordon House and Eddy Charlie. We are proud of our friendship and work together with Eddy and Kristin, and are honoured to distribute these shirts to members of our community.

100% of all proceeds raised went to Victoria Orange Shirt Day. Thank you to all who wore an Orange Shirt on September 30th, and all year round. 

Story Time – with Jaylene Tyme

On the evening of Tuesday 28th September the legendary Jaylene Tyme hosted an intimate and intersectional story time for our whole community.

Jaylene Tyme is a proud Indigenous Two Spirit Trans human from Zagime Anishinabek, Kawacatoose and Metis Nation Saskatchewan – Treaty 4. As a celebrated make up artist, preformer and LGBTQ2S+ ambassador, she believes that it is important to celebrate the power of community by contributing to the energy of our world with passion and positivity. Together for each other, we have the opportunity to inspire and educate. Our identities, beautifully diverse and wonderfully unique.

Jaylene shared stories about diversity and Indigenous visibility. Jaylene read aloud two stories for the attendees – “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt” by Phyllis Webstad and “Juliàn Is A Mermaid” by Jessica Love.

This was a magical evening for everyone in attendance, with one child giving the ultimate high praise of I am adding Jaylene to my adult friends list’.

Resources for Relearning & Action