Orange Shirt Day began in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in B.C. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new and beloved orange shirt for her first day of school, but the Mission Oblates stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform. (Visit orangeshirtday.org for the full story about Phyllis Webstad and her experience.)
The loss of an orange shirt was by no means the worst thing that happened to an Indigenous child in the Indian Residential School System, but it has become symbolic of all that was taken from the children—their language, culture, family and community relationships, safety, security and identity, sometimes even their lives.
When we wear orange shirts and talk about why we are wearing them, we help to build awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools, and we witness to the truth that Every Child Matters.
In this video, Vivian Ketchum, originating from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation of Northern Ontario, and a member of Place of Hope Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, talks about why she wears an orange shirt, and why it is important for members of the church to mark September 30. You are invited to share this reflection with and in your church community.
For more information about justice for Indigenous people and the role of The Presbyterian Church in Canada in running Indian Residential Schools, visit the Social Action Hub.