Skip to main content

Orange Shirt Day

Wearing Indigenous regalia, Eugene Sam of the Songhees Nation gives a traditional welcome.

UVic pledges to uphold ʔetal nəwəl | ÁTOL,NEUEL | respecting the rights of one another and being in right relationships with all things. We're working to foster truth, respect and mutual understanding with all Indigenous peoples and communities.

During National Truth and Reconciliation Week (Sept. 25-30), a number of events took place at UVic, including the launch of Xʷkʷənəŋ istəl, I W̱ȻENEṈISTEL I Helping to move each other forward—UVic’s Indigenous Plan 2023, on Sept. 25.

The week concluded with a UVic community gathering in the Quad on Sept. 29. This was an opportunity to come together to listen, learn and share.

The orange t-shirt

Indigenous artwork of heart with children's hands on an orange background
UVic orange t-shirt. Artwork designed by Kwakwaka'wakw/Coast Salish artist Carey Newman Hayalthkin'geme.

The design for the t-shirt was created by Kwakwaka'wakw/Coast Salish artist Carey Newman Hayalthkin'geme, UVic’s Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices since 2021.

"This design was made to honour the children who died in residential school. The hearts express love for all those in unmarked graves and compassion for the families and communities who waited for them to be found. The small and colourful hands remind us of the uniqueness and beauty of every child. Taken together, they represent our commitment to listen to our hearts and use our hands, to do the work that needs to be done.  

The visceral confirmation of Survivor accounts that has come from locating these graves has affected many of us on an emotional level. It has changed the way that many people think and feel about our histories and current realities in Canada."

Kwakwaka'wakw/Coast Salish artist Carey Newman Hayalthkin'geme on "Hearts and Hands"

Individual orders

T-shirts are available for individual purchase.

If you would like to support Orange Shirt Day initiatives, please consider making a $25 donation directly to the Elders Engagement Fund, Witness Blanket Project or Orange Shirt Society.

Support meaningful engagement with Elders

The university has established the ITOTELNEW̱TEL ȽTE: LEARNING FROM ONE ANOTHER Fund (Elders Engagement Fund). It provides meaningful engagement with Elders and opportunities for learning Indigenous ways of knowing for students, faculty and staff.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

Orange Shirt Day is a national movement in Canada. In this annual event, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together in the spirit of hope and reconciliation to honour former residential school students, their families and communities. We consider the impacts of the policies and actions of the Government of Canada and the churches that operated the schools. 

Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, BC in 2013 at the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event at which survivor Phyllis Webstad told the story of her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of school at the Mission.

Orange Shirt Day occurs in early fall because this is the time of year when children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools. The day inspires Canadians to take part in anti-racism and anti-bullying initiatives at school and work.

The residential school era began in the early 1870s, with the last school closing in 1996. More than 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children attended these schools. There are an estimated 80,000 survivors living today.

Support & resources

If you find that you need emotional support after engaging with Orange Shirt Day material, there are some services available.

Gerry Ambers (ʼNa̱mǥis / Kwakwaka'wakw), Elder-in-Residence at the First Peoples House, offers viewers several ways to stay calm and grounded in these challenging times. Produced by the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement at UVic.

SupportConnect is a free, confidential mental health support service for UVic students. You can connect with qualified counsellors, consultants and life coaches by phone or online 24/7. Video or in-person options are available.
Toll-free (calls from North America): 1-844-773-1427
International collect calls: 1-250-999-7621

Counselling for Indigenous Students
Indigenous counsellors provide individual and group counselling that treat the heart, body, mind and spirit for Indigenous students. Indigenous counselling sessions are flexible in length, you are seen on the spot for emergency appointments and in general, you are able to meet with the Indigenous Counsellor without having to wait too long.

UVic Counselling Services 
Located in the new Student Wellness Centre at 2300 McKenzie across the street from the CARSA gym. Counselling sessions for UVic students can be booked by calling the number above. Indigenous counsellors are available.

Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line
24-hour crisis line for survivors and family of survivors. Toll-Free: 1-866-925-4419

First Nations Health Authority Mental Health Benefits
FNHA partners with Indigenous Services Canada to offer a comprehensive mental health plan to First Nations in BC. The plan covers counselling services from a qualified mental health provider, including psychologists, clinical counsellors and social workers.

Connects students with mental health support when they need it. Through this program, all students currently registered in a BC post-secondary institution have access to free, confidential counselling and community referral services, conveniently available 24/7 via app, phone and web.

The Vancouver Island Crisis Line
24-hour crisis line service to Vancouver Island, the islands of the Georgia Strait, and the mainland communities between Powell River and Rivers Inlet, as defined by Island Health. It operates 365 days a year. Crisis workers provide short-term non-judgmental emotional, support, crisis intervention, information and resources.

KUU-US Crisis Line Society
The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial aboriginal crisis line for adults/Elders and youth.
Adults/Elders: 250-723-4050
Child/Youth: 250-723-2040
Toll-free Line: 1-800-588-8717

Learn more

Facing the legacy of residential schools

At UVic, we commit to facing head-on the realities of Canada's history and present. We commit to breaking down the colonial systems and barriers that still exist in our institution and to being accountable in this work.

Learn more about our response and commitments in support of truth and reconciliation.