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Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day

September 28, 2022

Indigenous peoples have experienced devastating impacts to their way of life with the European colonization of North America. In the following article written by Sierra Bitsie, Graduate Assistant for the Native American Student Services and the Asian Pacific American Student Services, they share the history and impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples.

On September 30, Indigenous peoples and tribal nations across North America recognize Orange Shirt Day, formally named as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 as a grassroots movement to bring awareness to the history and present impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples. The movement started in Canada and through advocacy efforts Orange Shirt Day was established as a Canadian statutory holiday last September 30, 2021.

While not yet recognized as a formal holiday in the United States, the history of residential schools is not limited to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Between Canada and the United States, over 500 government and/or religious affiliated Indian boarding schools have been identified. Collectively, these boarding schools forcibly removed hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children from their families and communities well into 1960s. The intention of these schools was to strip indigenous peoples of Indigenous knowledge, spirituality, culture, and language.

In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission conducted an investigation on residential schools. Throughout the investigation, they discovered thousands of indigenous children who never returned home. Additionally, they collected stories from survivors of these institutions who reported countless instances of physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse.

In 2021, United States Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, announced the establishment of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. The initiative will result in an investigative report of boarding schools in the United States as well as attempts to reconcile.

Amid ongoing federal efforts to uncover the truth, Indigenous communities continue to recognize Orange Shirt Day as an opportunity to educate, spread awareness, and heal. Orange Shirt Day is a day for people to learn more about the insidious history of boarding schools and the ripple effects of generational trauma that continue to impact Indigenous communities today.