Start the Conversation About #whyiwearorange 💬

Orange Shirt Day is a crucial opportunity for all Canadians to engage in conversations about reconciliation, residential schools, and the impact they’ve had on Indigenous communities. It’s not just a day to remember; it’s a day to reflect, learn, and start meaningful conversations that help us collectively move toward healing and understanding. This article aims to guide non-Indigenous individuals in initiating conversations about Orange Shirt Day with their children, family, friends, and colleagues.

Why It Matters:

Understanding the significance of Orange Shirt Day is the first step. The day, observed annually on September 30th, began as a commemoration of the residential school experience of Phyllis Webstad, who had her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school. This day reminds us of the cultural assimilation, loss of identity, and trauma that Indigenous children endured in these schools. Learn more about Orange Shirt Day here.

Starting a conversation about Orange Shirt Day is a way to:

  1. Raise Awareness: Many people are unaware of the history and lasting effects of residential schools. Conversations can help educate others about this dark chapter in Canadian history.
  2. Show Support: Discussing Orange Shirt Day demonstrates your support for Indigenous communities and their ongoing struggles for justice and healing.
  3. Promote Reconciliation: Reconciliation involves understanding, empathy, and taking action. By talking about it, you contribute to the process of healing and unity.

Tips for Conversations:

  1. Educate Yourself First: Before initiating a conversation, educate yourself about the history and significance of Orange Shirt Day. Visit the official Orange Shirt Day website and other credible sources to gather information.
  2. Choose the Right Time: Find an appropriate moment to discuss this sensitive topic. It could be any time – during a family dinner, a casual chat with friends, or during a meeting at work.
  3. Be Empathetic and Open: Approach the conversation with empathy and an open mind. Recognize that discussing residential schools and their impacts can be emotional.
  4. Share Your Learning Journey: If you’ve recently learned about Orange Shirt Day, share your own learning process with others. This can inspire them to learn more as well.
  5. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage dialogue by asking open-ended questions such as, “Have you heard of Orange Shirt Day?” or “What do you think we can do to support reconciliation efforts?”
  6. Listen Actively: Pay close attention to what others have to say. Listening is crucial for understanding different perspectives and fostering empathy.
  7. Provide Resources: Share articles, books, documentaries, or online resources that can help others learn more about Orange Shirt Day and the history of residential schools.

Talking to Your Children

Talking to your children about Orange Shirt Day is a meaningful way to instill values of empathy, respect, and reconciliation from an early age. Here are some tips for starting conversations with your kids:

  1. Choose the Right Time: Find a calm and comfortable moment when you and your child can sit down and talk without distractions.
  2. Age-Appropriate Language: Tailor your language to your child’s age and understanding. Younger children may need simpler explanations, while older ones can delve deeper into the topic.
  3. Start with a Story: Begin by sharing the story of Phyllis Webstad and her orange shirt. You can find children’s books or online resources that explain the history of Orange Shirt Day in a child-friendly way.
  4. Ask Open Questions: Encourage your child’s curiosity by asking open-ended questions such as, “What do you think happened to Phyllis and her orange shirt?” or “Why do you think Orange Shirt Day is important?”
  5. Emphasize Empathy: Help your child understand how others might have felt in Phyllis’s situation. Ask questions like, “How would you feel if someone took away something important to you?” This fosters empathy and compassion.
  6. Share Indigenous Perspectives: Introduce your child to Indigenous cultures, traditions, and stories. Learning about Indigenous contributions and perspectives is a valuable part of reconciliation.
  7. Be Honest About History: While it’s important to present information in an age-appropriate way, avoid sugarcoating history. Use simple language to explain the difficult parts, such as the impact of residential schools.
  8. Continue the Conversation: Remember that learning is an ongoing process. Continue to revisit the topic and engage in discussions as your child grows and develops a deeper understanding.

Starting conversations about Orange Shirt Day with your loved ones is a step toward reconciliation and a more inclusive future. Remember that these discussions may be challenging, emotional, and uncomfortable at times, but they are essential for understanding the past and working toward a better future. By engaging in these conversations, you contribute to the healing process and the ongoing journey of reconciliation.