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.
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, and sometimes even their lives.
September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, and we continue to lift up Orange Shirt Day as the Survivor-led movement that calls for this national day of recognition.
The racist belief in European Christian superiority that underscored the Residential Schools system was also part of colonial systems of government, institutions (including the church), and social values and attitudes. As a church that ran 12 residential schools, we bear a collective responsibility to work for truth, for healing from the harms of intergenerational trauma and racism, and to seek justice for Indigenous peoples.
What you can do
- Read Phyllis Webstad’s story and learn about the origin of Orange Shirt Day.
- Listen to Vivian Ketchum’s talk about the importance of Orange Shirt Day. There is also an accompanying study guide.
- Watch this worship service by Indigenous ministry leaders (prepared for National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21).
- Learn about the PCC and Indian Residential Schools
- Learn about the Doctrine of Discovery and why it was important for the church to repudiate it.
- View the Residential Schools photo exhibit from the Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives.
- Learn more about the deadly harms of colonization. Read the church’s study guide on the final report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- Visit the Social Action Hub’s Indigenous Justice page.