Rogers Communications has launched a new campaign in support of Orange Shirt Day to spread awareness on the impacts of the residential school system while advocating for reconciliation.
World Indigenous Peoples' Day is Sunday and Canadians have the opportunity to purchase a specially designed orange t-shirt, created by Ojibwe artist Patrick Hunter.
All proceeds from t-shirt sales will benefit the Orange Shirt Society specifically targeting the organization's efforts in expanding Indigenous education throughout the country.
The t-shirt was unveiled in honour of National Indigenous Peoples' Day ahead of Orange Shirt Day on September 30 and serves as a tribute to all of the lives impacted and lost through residential schools.
Canadians are reminded that the resident school system saw more than 150,000 Indigenous children who were taken from their parents dating back to the 19th century. However the last residential school didn't close until 1996.
All of the aspects of the orange t-shirt were uniquely chosen.
“In most of the Indigenous communities in Canada, receiving an eagle feather is an honour that comes after going above and beyond in service to your community or recognition of personal growth.” says Hunter. “I chose 11 feathers to honour the four directions because the residential school system stretched in every direction on Turtle Island, and the '7 Grandfather teachings' (Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom), all arranged in the shape of a sunrise.
The impact and trauma that residential schools has left for generations of Indigenous Canadians is still prevalent today.
Canadian author Phyllis Webstad was sent to a residential school in 1973. She was just six years old and her story inspired Orange Shirt Day. She is now the executive director of the Orange Shirt Society.
“I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front and was so bright and exciting. When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt. I never wore it again," she says.
"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. I have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter.”
If you want to help the Orange Shirt Society's educational programming, purchase a Rogers commission t-shirt ahead of Orange Shirt Day here.