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Indigenous Education
Orange Shirt Day

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Phyllis Webstad community presentation Oct 1 2018.jpg

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013.  It grew out of Phyllis' story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away 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. ​​​​​​​

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The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.  It also gives teachers time to plan events that will include children, as we want to ensure that we are passing the story and learning on to the next generations.

Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

Orange Shirt Day (click on link to see Phyllis' website for more of her story, videos, resources etc.)

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Lesson Ideas
Orange Shirt Day Lesson Plans K-12 ​ From Manitoba Teacher's Society​

2018-09-24 09_52_48-Orangeshirttemplate.pub (Read-Only) - Publisher.pngOrange Shirt Template





Print Resources

orange shirt story.jpgAuthor: Phyllis Webstad

When Phyllis Webstad (nee Jack) turned six, she was sent to a residential school for the first time. On her first day at school, she proudly wore a shiny orange shirt that her Granny had bought for her. When she arrived at school she was told that she could not wear her favourite shirt. It was taken away from her, never to be returned. The Orange Shirt Story tells the true story of Phyllis and her orange shirt and of Orange Shirt Day (an important day of remembrance for First Nations Canadians).​


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Author: Lynda Dobbin-Turner

The last day of September, Tyson got ready for school, only to find that his Mom wanted him to wear a different shirt. An orange shirt! Tyson wasn’t very happy about it, so his Mom had to explain just why it was important that on September 30th he wore orange. In Canada, for over a hundred years, Indigenous children were sent away to be educated in what is now known as the Indian Residential School System. Devised by the government, to ‘kill the Indian in the child’, these schools were often miles and miles from where they child’s family resided. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has uncovered and documented many of the atrocities that took place in those institutions. It has exposed the intergenerational trauma that is the system’s legacy. Tyson’s New Orange Shirt tells the story of how his Mom explained to him the importance of recognizing the impact on children and how in a different time, Tyson might have been one of those kids!​

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Author: Debra Abood

This book takes simple pictures and words and uses them to illustrate and clarify some complicated issues: belonging within families and cultures, respect for both children and elders in the values they can teach us, and safety for one of our society's most vulnerable and most resilient group of people: children. Debora Abood draws on years of experience working with urban Aboriginal people, as well as vicims of trauma, to create an atmosphere of non-judgemental invitation to examine how ancient traditional teachings can point people from all cultures towards healthy recognition of human sanctity. I've seen this book used in schools, public libraries, early learning centres, medical facilities, cultural programs, and independent learning courses. Most importantly, though, my two-year old loves the pictures and has memorized the refrain of "and this I need to know" that echoes through the book. I certainly hope that he grows up with the sensibilities that this book promotes: care and respect for others and for other ways of knowing. 

2018-09-13 13_28_42-Book List  Residentiall School.pub (Read-Only) - Publisher.pngResidential School Book List ​(pdf)




More Information and Resources:


Residential School​ (click on link to see more resources on SD #71 Aboriginal Education website)
Reconciliation: A Journey for All Canadians (click on link to see some ides from SD #71 for Reconcilation in the classroom)



Downloadable French Resources:

Phyllis' story Phyllis' story French