UNENE members honour Orange Shirt Day

Group of Orange Shirt Day participants
Image: Ontario Tech University (2019)

UNENE university members are leading events and educational campaigns to honour Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

SEPT. 29, 2021 – As the school year begins, September is also a time to reflect on those we lost and those who survived the residential school system.  

Sept. 30 is a day to honour the survivors of residential schools and recognize their experiences. It is also a day to demonstrate our collective commitment to equality, equity, and the belief that Every Child Matters.

Since Orange Shirt Day began in 2013, people across Canada have worn orange to raise awareness about the history of the residential school system in this country. The day was inspired by the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, as she described her first day at a residential school when she was six-years-old, where the new orange shirt her grandmother gave her was taken away.

Webstad said, “The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

This Sept. 30 is also the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday created to honour Canada’s residential school survivors, their families and communities. The day will be used to publicly commemorate the impact and trauma endured by Indigenous people. It comes after the discovery of more than 1300 Indigenous children’s remains in unmarked graves at former residential school sites. The day is an important component of the country’s reconciliation process.

As part of the day’s events, many UNENE network universities are holding smudging ceremonies for students, staff and school community members. Other university members will light the exterior of their buildings orange to honour those affected by residential schools.

All university members recognize the importance of this day, with many hosting educational campaigns to raise awareness and to teach the community about Canada’s history and the commitment to truth and reconciliation.

UNENE’s office is located at the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations, and within the lands protected by the “Dish with One Spoon” wampum agreement.

Learn more about the university events by visiting the UNENE members’ Indigenous pages here.