The newsletter below is from UBC’s Edubytes which highlights emerging trends and innovations in teaching and learning in higher education. Today’s newsletter focuses on orange shirt day 2023, and I thought it might be helpful to others, so I’m posting it below in its entirety. [If you are reading this post on LinkedIn, click on the URL above to see the links – for some reason, my cross-posting to LinkedIn eliminates all the links]

Orange Shirt Day 2023

September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day and the annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day brings us together to observe the legacy of Canada’s Indian residential school system and commemorate those who survived, and those who were lost.

This edition of Edubytes shares the history of the residential school system and context for understanding the ongoing impacts. We want to honour Survivors and their families, and celebrate our communities’ strength and resilience.

This edition has been curated and written in collaboration with the CTLT Indigenous Initiatives team, with contributions from:

  • Janelle Kasperski, Educational Consultant
  • Kyle Shaughnessy, Educational Consultant, Staff Training
  • Carissa Block, Educational Resources Developer
  • Samantha Nock, Educational Consultant, Campus and Classroom Climate

CONTENT NOTE: This editorial contains information on the residential school system, missing children, and Survivor testimony. Furthermore, resources will address Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit Kin, the Child Welfare System, and other ongoing impacts of the residential school system.

If you need support during this challenging time, please reach out to:

The Indian Residential School Emergency Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those that may need counselling and support: 1-800-721-0066. Alternatively, the 24-hour National Crisis Line is also available: 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat line.

Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in BC to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.

The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial Aboriginal Crisis line for adults, elders, and youth. See more below:

  • Adult/Elder Crisis Line: 250-723-4050
  • Child/Youth Crisis Line: 250-723-2040
  • BC Wide Toll Free: 1-800-588-8717
  • Métis Crisis Line BC Toll Free: 1-833-638-4722

For Indigenous Kin: Colleagues and Community

September is a long and complex month for all of us. Please know that whatever you are feeling, you are valid; make decisions that are the best for you and your kin in how you want to participate. Does that mean taking time to step back from public gatherings or showing up to public gatherings? What would fill your heart and help you feel held, seen, and supported? You are loved through the time and space of this grief and healing.


A note on navigating this newsletter for Indigenous Kin:
This communication contains many educational links and resources for non-Indigenous people to continue their learning, along with links to local events. Please take care while clicking through links, as many of them can be activating. One way this newsletter could be useful for you is by sharing it with non-Indigenous colleagues, family, and friends.


Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 as a grassroots commemoration event that took place in Williams Lake, BC. Together, families of former students of St. Joseph Mission Residential School from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, St’at’imc and Southern Dakelh Nations gathered to honour and remember the legacy of St. Joseph Mission. Based on Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story of her first day at St. Joseph Mission, the orange shirt has become a symbol in memory of those who attended residential schools, those who never returned home, and the continued remembrance of this ongoing legacy. September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to reflect the time of year when children were stolen from their homes and placed in the residential school system.


To learn more about the history and contemporary impacts of the residential school system, please check out these resources:

What’s the difference between Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a recent federally recognized statutory holiday, created as one of the steps the federal government has taken in recognizing Canada’s role and history in the Indian Residential School System. Coinciding with Orange Shirt Day, September 30 is a day of commemoration for Survivors, Intergenerational Survivors, and relatives that did not come home. While Orange Shirt Day is a grassroots initiative started within Indigenous community that is representative of many years of remembrance and resistance, it is not a federally recognized day of observance.

After the confirmation of unmarked graves on Residential School grounds across the country, there was a renewed call for accountability from the Canadian Government, beyond the original 2008 apology by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Learn more: Canadian Residential Schools: A Timeline of Apologies

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was born out of the timeless labour and activism of Survivors and their families, fulfilling #80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s Calls to Action (PDF):
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

September 30 now marks a federally recognized statutory holiday to ensure public commemoration of the legacy of the Indian Residential School System, though not unanimously recognized as a provincial holiday.

Indigenous perspectives vary widely on the implementation of this day. You can read the different responses below:

So… What Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Have Been Widely Implemented?

The Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led research and education centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Toronto Metropolitan University, has created an annual accountability check on the TRC Calls to Action that the federal government has implemented over the last seven years. As of 2022, these are their findings:

You can learn more about Yellowhead Institute’s methodology and further analysis by checking out: Calls to Action Accountability: A 2022 Status Update on Reconciliation (PDF).

Observing Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a non-Indigenous Person

It is integral to remember that the statutory “holiday” on September 30 is not a “free” day off, but a federally instituted day of remembrance. There is a misconception that the historical and contemporary legacy of Indian Residential Schools are an “Indigenous peoples’” responsibility when, in actuality, it is a Canadian responsibility.

“There was kind of a renewed sense of not just carrying on with the work of reconciliation and addressing calls to action, but an important and key reminder about truth and about what truths […] maybe weren’t heard loud enough.”
Dr. Tricia Logan, interim academic director, Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre on recent changes in the national conversation regarding Indian Residential Schools and reconciliation.

Learn more: ‘A different place’: How the missing children of a former B.C. residential school changed Canada

Take this day to educate yourself, attend local commemorative events, and have difficult conversations with your family and friends. Take time to personally reflect and process emotions that are coming up and, through self-research, answer some of those uncomfortable questions that are coming up.


Consider attending Indigenous-led and organized gatherings, such as the annual Intergenerational March to Commemorate Orange Shirt Day led by the Faculties of Applied Science and Land and Food Systems. If you’re unable to be on the UBC Vancouver campus, consider these local gatherings:

Reconciliation does not begin and end on September 30; it is a lifetime and intergenerational responsibility. Consider the ways in which you are working to uphold reconciliation and decolonization in your everyday life. Learn more:

An important part of this work is holding difficult conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. A troubling rise in Residential School denialism has emerged over the last few years and is continuously gaining traction. Deeply rooted in anti-Indigenous racism and violent colonialism, these sentiments are becoming insidious talking points in mainstream narratives.“Indigenous people put up memorials to honour their children, not to make settlers feel bad. And it’s the emotions of these settlers, not those of Indigenous people, that are clouding the issue and obscuring the truth. It makes them eager and willing to reorient the national conversation away from its acknowledgement of Indigenous realities and toward a soothing, redemptive alternate history.”  
Michelle Cyca, The Dangerous Allure of Residential School Denialism

Challenge denialism when you see it, be an active participant in reconciliation.

Learn more: Residential School Denialism Is on the Rise. What to Know: And how to confront it. Because without the truth, there can be no reconciliation

Respectful Engagement with Indigenous Programming and Supports: Understanding Capacity

Increased truth-telling and awareness on Indigenous histories, lived experiences, and current events have led to a greater investment by non-Indigenous scholars, programs, and employees in exploring their own role in reconciliation. People truly want to do better and work towards decolonizing and indigenizing their work in meaningful ways. This positive move forward has also led to increased requests coming in for consultation and support for Indigenous-focused programs and staff.

Here are some ideas for how you can engage mindfully when requesting learning support.

Plan ahead

When you anticipate an upcoming need, get in touch with Indigenous programming early. Given the high volume of requests that come in for consultation, support, collaboration and information, it may take a bit of time before a program or staff is able to meet with you about your request. It is a best practice to provide plenty of space to ensure there is time to meet or check-in. Two months is recommended when requests focus around annual events such as Orange Shirt Day.

Spread Out Your Engagement

Prioritize decolonizing work in your programming throughout the year- not just during specific events, such as the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, Indigenous History Month, Red Dress Day, etc.

Consider Timing

Be mindful of current events relevant to Indigenous communities: days of commemoration, community tragedies, acts of injustice, and difficult truths coming to light, such as the confirmation of residential school burials. These can often be times where many Indigenous staff and faculty are also experiencing personal loss or are needing to dedicate increased resources to personal and community care. Ensure you are being considerate in the timing if your request for consultation or information is related to a recent loss or injustice.

Reconciliation, decolonization, and indigenization work is important work that we are all invested in. When we can give it the space and attention it needs, lasting and meaningful change can truly happen.