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Orange Shirt Day

Thunder Bay, ON – The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) would like to acknowledge the heartbreaking loss of all the children recovered, and yet to be recovered, in unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada. Now more than ever is the time to come together to promote awareness and healing on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which for many years has been recognized by Indigenous communities as “Orange Shirt Day”. ONWA recognizes the trauma the Residential School legacy has left behind, and how these traumas still affect people today. As such, ONWA will continue to empower and support Indigenous people through trauma-informed, strength-based services, activities, and events.

About the History

Orange Shirt Day is an annual event held on September 30th that honours the stories, experiences, and lives of those who attended Residential School. This day encourages the sharing of stories; empowering Survivors, their families, and their communities to heal from their trauma and acknowledging the lasting effects of those experiences. This day also provides an opportunity for meaningful reconciliation through local, provincial, and national activities that honour and recognize the strength of not only the Survivors of Residential Schools but of all Indigenous children affected by its Legacy.

Orange Shirt Day started in May 2013 because of Residential School survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad speaking out about her experience. She spoke about how the Orange Shirt her grandmother gave her was taken on her first day and never returned. Phyllis said that orange will always remind her of her experience at Residential School and how no one cared and that she felt she did not matter. By wearing orange on this day, she shares the powerful message that “Every Child Matters”.

In 2021, the Federal Government’s officially designated September 30th as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to allow Canadians an opportunity to recognize and commemorate the tragic legacy of residential schools. This designation fulfills one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

What you can do (Host or join an event)

ONWA invites you to engage with your local community to help honour and support the people in your community to heal and share their stories in a safe way. Please join ONWA in hosting or joining an event in your community to help raise awareness on this day and every day until all the children are found.

ONWA Thunder Bay (380 Ray Blvd.) is holding an Every Child Matters Day event from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST on Friday, September 30th, 2022. Join ONWA for this in-person event and learn about what Orange Shirt Day is and why it is important recognize this day. There will be open fire teachings, on site mental health support, Elders, and a Sacred Fire. Give aways and raffles will be happening throughout! Refillable water station, bannock, and tea will be available. For more information, please contact: Angela Begin OR Rhonda Braun

We invite you to share your photos on social media with the #ONWAOrangeShirtDay hashtag to show what you are doing in your own community to help raise awareness and honour this day. Please tag us in your post (Facebook @ONWA7, Twitter @_ONWA_, Instagram @onwa_official).

ONWA also invites you to learn more about the Residential School System Legacy and its impacts by reading the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC):

If you or a family member have been impacted and require emotional support, contact the 24-Hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

For more information:

Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager

Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)


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