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Remembering Canada’s Lost Indigenous Children and Survivors of Residential Schools

Press Release

29 Sep, 2023

September 30th marks two important days in Canada – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day – which recognize the harm inflicted on Canada’s Indigenous people from the horrific residential school system legacy. To further honour this solemn day, we are inviting TNDC team members to understand the tragic legacy of Canada’s residential schools and to wear symbolic orange shirts in remembrance of the lost children and survivors, We are providing orange shirts designed by Tahltan artist Huey Carlick – Turtle Island shares the message Every Child Matters.


The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) was established by the Canadian government in 2021 to honour the children who never returned home from residential schools, and the survivors, as well as their families and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential school system. Public commemoration of this tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process. Establishment of a federal statutory day of commemoration was Call to Action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. NDTR builds on the grassroots momentum of Orange Shirt Day. Learn more: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation


Orange Shirt Day originates from the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. In 1973, on her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, BC, Phyllis’s shiny new orange shirt was stripped from her, never to be seen again. Forty years later, on September 30, 2013, Phyllis spoke publicly for the first time about her experience, beginning the Orange Shirt Day movement. On September 30th each year, people across Canada wear orange and participate in Orange Shirt Day events to recognize and raise awareness about the history and legacy of the residential school system in Canada. Learn more: Orange Shirt Day


Residential schools were created and funded by the Canadian government and operated by churches. The goal was to assimilate Indigenous children into society and eliminate their Indigenous knowledge and identity. First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and put into schools where they were forced to abandon their traditions, cultural practices and languages. They faced horrendous physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of residential school staff. These schools operated for more than 160 years (1883 to 1996) in all Canadian provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. It is estimated more than 150,000 Indigenous children between the ages of 4 and 16 attended residential schools. Learn more: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation


Huey Carlick designed this art piece in honour of the lands of his ancestors, which is known in the Indigenous community as Turtle Island, in remembrance of the children who were harmed in the residential school system, and with the hope for a better future for all Indigenous communities. Huey’s youngest grandson’s hand was the model for this art piece. Profits from the sales of this shirt will be divided between the artist and his chosen charity, the Orange Shirt Day Society to help raise awareness across Canada about the residential schools and their continuing impacts on individuals, families and communities, and to promote the concept “Every Child Matters”. Huey Carlick is an honourable, respected, and deeply loved member of the Tahltan Nation and a member of the Crow clan. Read his full bio: Turtle Island – by Huey Carlick


As an Indigenous owned business of the Tahltan Nation, this day holds heightened meaning. The TNDC team stands in solidarity with the many Tahltans and other Indigenous people across Canada who attended these institutions, as well as their families who continue to suffer from this tragic legacy. We offer heartfelt wishes for healing, reconciliation, and a brighter future for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.


This discussion may be difficult for some. Help is available if you need to talk to someone, through the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (24-hour emotional support services): 1-800-721-0066.


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