Orange Shirt Day is an awareness day to honour the experiences of thousands of Indigenous Residential School Survivors. It is also a time to acknowledge the deaths of the Indigenous Children who did not make it home.

Residential schools were open between 1830-1996 (only 24 years ago!).

Phyllis Webstad is a Residential School survivor, and the name Orange Shirt Day was inspired by her personal story. When she was 6 years old, on her first day of Residential School at St Joseph’s Mission, her brand new orange shirt given to her by her Grandmother was stripped from her.
Sept 30 date was chosen, because this was the time of year that Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and required by the government to attend residential schools.

Films / documentaries: 

  • ”Were Were Children” 2012. Watch for free via NFB website
    • ‘We Were Children’ (2012) tells the story of Lyna and Glen, who are two indigenous Canadian children who endure years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse at a church-run boarding school.
  • “Muffins for Granny” 2006. Watch for free via NFB website
    • ‘Muffins for Granny’ (2006) follows McLaren who tells the story of her own grandmother by combining precious home movie fragments with the stories of seven elders dramatically affected by their experiences in residential school.
  • “Holy Angels” 2017. Short 14 minute film. Watch for free via NFB website 
    • In 1963, Lena Wandering Spirit, became one of more than 150,000 Indigenous Canadian children who were removed from their families and sent to residential school. Following his journey to not only uncover Canada’s colonial history, but move past it.
  • “Indian Horse” 2017. 
    • ‘Indian Horse’ (2017) follows the life of Saul Indian Horse as he survives residential school and life amongst the racism of the 1970s. A talented hockey player, Saul must find his own path as he battles stereotypes and alcoholism.


  • “A Knock on the Door” (2015) Phil Fontaine, Aimee Craft
    Summary: “It can start with a knock on the door one morning. It is the local Indian agent, or the parish priest, or, perhaps, a Mounted Police officer… The officials have arrived and the children must go. So began the school experience of many Indigenous children in Canada for more than a hundred years”

    • Phil Fontaine is a Survivor, TRC Honorary Witness, and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
    • Aimée Craft is an Anishinaabe – Métis lawyer from Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba and is the former Director of Research at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the founding Director of Research at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
  • “Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools” (2010) Theodore Fontaine
    Summary: Theodore (Ted) Fontaine lost his family and freedom just after his seventh birthday, when his parents were forced to leave him at an Indian residential school by order of the Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Canada. Twelve years later, he left school frozen at the emotional age of seven. He was confused, angry and conflicted, on a path of self-destruction. At age 29, he emerged from this blackness.

    • Theodore Fontaine is a survivor, member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and chairs the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, a national leadership training institute based in Winnipeg.
  • “Five Little Indians” (1996) Michelle Good
    Summary: Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging.

    • Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She obtained her law degree after three decades of working with indigenous communities and organizations..



  • Indian Residential School Survivor Society –
  • Legacy of Hope Foundation –
  • BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres – 
  • Urban Youth Native Association –