Beginning in 2013, Orange Shirt Day was designed to educate people and promote awareness about the impact that the Indian residential school system had, and some would say still has, on Indigenous communities of Canada for more than a century. It is held annually on September 30 in Canadian communities with students and staff being encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school that day.
Orange Shirt were chosen as a result of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad sharing her story at a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada, in the spring of 2013. On her first day at residential school Phyllis had her new orange shirt taken away from her. Phyllis’ experience is used today to teach students about residential schools and their assimilation practices.
With the date of September 30 being chosen because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools.
In addition to simply wearing an orange shirt people are encouraged to learn more about the history of residential schools with many communities holding memorial walks, film screenings, and public lectures to raise awareness about Indigenous history.