Orange Shirt Day is just one of many opportunities we have throughout the year to increase our understanding of the legacy of Residential Schools and to engage in the process of Reconciliation.
Please remember before leading discussion in your classroom about this topic, it is imperative that you conduct your own research and gain an understanding of both the history and lasting impacts of Canada’s residential school system.
What is Orange Shirt Day?
Orange Shirt Day is an annual event where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together in the spirit of hope and reconciliation to honour former residential school students, their families and communities. We consider the impacts of the policies and actions of the Government of Canada and the churches that operated the schools.
Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, BC in 2013 at the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event at which survivor Phyllis Webstad told the story of her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of school at the Mission.
Orange Shirt Day occurs in early Fall because this is the time of year when children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools. The day inspires Canadians to take part in anti-racism and anti-bullying initiatives at school and work.
The residential school era began in the early 1870’s, with the last school closing in 1996. More than 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children attended these schools. There are an estimated 80,000 survivors living today. The intergeneration trauma created by these schools impacting thousands more.
What can you do in your school?
Appoint a team leader to organize a school wide event
- Orange shirt mural
- What is Reconciliation? Word Wall
- Promote wearing an orange shirt
- Share a fact a day announcement to raise awareness
- Decorate an orange hand with messages about why Every Child Matters and create a tree mural (from SD41 – Burnaby)
What can you do in your classroom?
- Connect with one of the virtual events hosted online
- Introduce a unit on Residential Schools
- Bring in a book or video to share with the students (see the book list below)
- Engage in conversations around Truth and Reconciliation
- Art projects to raise awareness
- September 16: Orange Shirt Day: Online Classroom
- Explore the new book Orange Shirt Day with Phyllis Webstad, Joan Sorley and The Orange Shirt Society
- September 30: Every Child Matters: Reconciliation through Education
- Designed for students in Grades 5 through 12, this virtual event provides an opportunity to learn first hand from Residential School Survivors, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, artists and leaders from nations and cultures across the country. Educators can select the events they wish to livestream for their students and download free educational resources.
- Amik Loves School, by Katherena Vermette
- When We Were Alone, by David Alexander Robertson (Quand on etait seul [FR])
- The Orange Shirt Story, by Phyllis Webstad (L’histoire du chandail orange [FR])
- Neekna and Chemai, by Jeannette C Armstrong
- As Long as the River Flows, by Larry Loyle (Tant que couleront les rivieres [FR])
- I Am Not a Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathey Kacer (Je ne suis pas un numéro [FR])
- The Secret of the Dance, by Andrea Spalding
- I Lost My Talk, by Rita Joe
- Kookum’s Red Shoes, by Peter Eyvindsin
- Stolen Words, by Melanie Florence (Les mots volés [FR])
- Shi-shi-etko, by Nicola Campbell
- Shin-chi’s Canoe, by Nicola Campbell (La pirogue de Shin-chi [FR])
- When I was Eight, by Christy Jordan-Fenton
- Not My Girl, by Christy Jordan-Fenton
Middle Grades/Young Adult:
- A Stranger at Home, by Christy Jordan-Fenton (Etrângère chez moi [FR])
- Fatty Legs, by Christy Jordan-Fenton (Les bas de pensionnat: une histoire vraie [FR])
- No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School, by Sylvia Olsen
- My Name is Seepeetza, by Shirley Sterling
- Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Residential Schools, by Melanie Florence
- Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, by Larry Loyle, Wayne K. Spear, Constance Brissenden
- Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, by Monique Gray Smith
- Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story, by David Alexander Robertson
- 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga, by David Alexander Robertson (7 Générations : Réunit Pierre et Cicatrices [FR])
- This Place: 150 Years Retold, by David Alexander Robertson
- UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel (PG), by Jason Eaglespeaker
- Broken Circle, by Theodore Fontaine
- Finding My Talk: How 14 Canadian Native Women Reclaimed Their Lives After Residential School, by Agnes Grant (non-Indigenous Editor)
- From Bear Rock Mountain: Life and Times of a Dené Residential School Survivor, by Antoine Mountain
- Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese
- Kiss of the Fur Queen, by Tomson Highway
- 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, by Gord Hill
- Mamaskatch, by Darrel J. McLeod
- The Education of Augie Merasty, by Joseph Auguste Merasty
- They Called Me Number One, by Bev Sellars
- UNeducation, Vol 1: Residential School Graphic Novel (Uncut), by Jason Eaglespeaker
- Unsettling the Settler Within, by Paulette Reagan
- Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential Schools, by Celia Haig-Brown
Please have a look at our Residential School texts available through our Resource Library.
We also have Residential School Kits available based on the FNESC: Residential School Resource
- Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools.
- I have used this resource and found it to be fantastic! The whole book is attached as a PDF.
- Project of Heart:
- This ebook is an interactive resource. It includes films, images, documents and much more.
- The Manitoba Teachers Society- Orange Shirt Day Lesson Plans:
- A variety of lessons for Kindergarten to grade 12. These lessons are offered in both French and English.
- Gladys We Never Knew:
- Incredible resource discussing the backstory through interactive resources.
- We are the Children:
- This exhibit promotes understanding and reconciliation in Canada about residential schools through the sharing of oral history and survivor stories. We recommend you preview the interviews/stories prior to sharing with your class.
- Video and interview with Phyliss (Jack) Webstad, Dog Creek, BC:
- Preview before sharing.
- Orange Shirt Day Activities
- This pdf suggests videos, stories, whole school, and grade activities.
- Resource and Lesson Guide from North Vancouver School District
- A phenomenal list curated by NVSD42 with lesson ideas and resources connected to the new BC curriculum from K-12
- Stained Glass Window in Parliament
- This art activity commemorates the legacy of residential schools.
- Thomas King Massey Lecture Series:
- Discusses the ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities through the use of story.
- Residential School Research Project
Don’t forget to wear your Orange Shirts on September 30th!