Orange Shirt Day 2020

Orange Shirt Day 2020

Wednesday, September 30 is Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis Webstad in 2013 to educate people about residential schools and to fight racism and bullying.  September 30 was chosen as it falls during the time of year when Indigenous children from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families were taken away from their communities and brought to residential school. On Orange Shirt Day, we visibly honour the Indigenous children who were taken from their families and sent away to residential schools across Canada by wearing an orange shirt. We encouraged all STS community members (students, staff, faculty, and parents) to wear an orange shirt to bring awareness to our work towards Reconciliation, to support the belief that “every child matters”, and to help us continue to learn more about the history of residential schools. 

STS continues the journey towards Reconciliation, and to educate ourselves about a dark chapter in Canada’s history and about the injustices First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have experienced as a result of racism and colonialism. Some of the work that has guided our community on our Reconciliation journey includes:

  • Faculty PD with Monique Gray-Smith

Monique Gray-Smith is an international speaker, consultant, and the award-winning author of Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation. A mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent, Monique focused on fostering paradigm shifts that emphasized the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada.

  • Student programs – HOP

Elementary students inquired into the history of a local residential school, the St. Joseph’s Industrial School (Dunbow Indian Residential School) through the HOP program. Their collaborative project culminated with a recitation of names of Indigenous students who lost their lives at the school site, and a release of butterflies to commemorate their spirits. (Globe and Mail article, Calgary Herald article) This project engaged the community outside our school as well, being part of the award winning, short documentary film “Little Mocassins” in 2014.

  • Student programs - Beyond the Norm

STS Senior School students are invited to participate in an initiative to support meaningful anti-racism work by showcasing and learning from Black, indigenous and artists of colour through multiple small projects that are COVID-19 safety compliant. The general premise is one where we ask our senior students to partner with a performing arts mentor and build a performance piece that allows them to express themselves with a focus on their personal experience of diversity and existing outside the norm. This project will culminate with a festival presentation late in the year. Students will perform at various venues inside and outside the school.

  • Reconciliation Through Art – Peter B. Ditchburn Library

STS collaborated with local artist, Kristy North Peigan, to create an art piece that communicates her interpretation of truth and reconciliation as an Indigenous woman. Inspired by the Aurora Borealis, the painting includes buffalo, constellations in the night sky, a smudge bowl, and pictographs representing the nations of Treaty 7 on which our campus sits. The art piece is displayed in the Peter B. Ditchburn Library.

  • Indigenous stories and literature

The STS English department novel studies include Ceremony by Leslie Marman Silko, Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese, Fatty Legs by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton, among others.
The Peter B. Ditchburn Library includes a section on Truth and Reconciliation curated by our Teacher Librarians, Ms Shepherd and Ms Chapman, as well as our Library Technician, Ms Reid. 

  • Ongoing learning through curricular integration

The Alberta Education Program of Studies includes opportunities for integration of history, literature, knowledge sharing, and celebration of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world. It also provides occasions for reflection on historical practices that have affected interactions amongst individuals and groups in Canada, as well as globally. Some examples of STS classes engaging with Indigenous learning include: Grade 5/6 community learning with community Elders, visitation to Blackfoot Crossing, Blanket exercise participation, PYPEx collaboration with local Indigenous groups; Middle School novel studies and interdisciplinary learning using Raven’s End by Ben Gadd; and Elementary and Middle School art students exploring Indigenous art forms from around the world.

Our hope is that by empowering students through knowledge and by participating in Orange Shirt Day our community will embrace the spirit of Reconciliation and recognize the important role we all play in acknowledging the destructive legacy of colonization. Through these ongoing steps, we hope to support the establishment of respectful relationships among all peoples in Canada.

On Wednesday, September 30, all members of the STS Community were encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school as part of their uniform. 

Orange Shirt day 2

Why an Orange Shirt?

The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad had received from her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school near Williams Lake, British Columbia in 1973. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt. The clothing was never returned.

For Phyllis, the colour orange has always reminded her of her experiences at residential school and, as she has said about that time, “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

The message that Phyllis wants to pass along on Orange Shirt Day — and every day — is that every child matters.

What can we do?

  • Wear an orange shirt on September 30
  • This year, students and teachers watched a virtual event online hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation on Wednesday, September 30
  • Share Phyllis’ story. You can watch it on YouTube (Phyllis Webstad's Orange Shirt story video)
  • Read Phyllis's book The Orange Shirt Story with your class or your family. It's available in English, French and Shuswap.
  • Read books by Indigenous authors about residential schools. Some great books are featured on CBCKids! 
  • Trace your hand and write something on the tracing that you can do to help others feel like they matter.
  • Find out more at