Orange Shirt Day: what to look out for when buying a shirt

For those looking to buy an orange shirt ahead of Orange Shirt Day on September 30, Indigenous designers are asking the public to make sure their purchase actually goes to support the cause.

Tina Taphouse, an interior Salish designer from St’at’imc territory around Lillooet, B.C., says it’s important for Canadians to do their research to learn more about the artist and ensure that their money is going to the right place.

« What I encourage people to do is when you buy an orange shirt, try to find out who the artist is and what their inspiration was behind the design of the shirt. And it would be great to support the local artists, » Taphouse said. told by phone Tuesday.

Taphouse, a Sixties Scoop survivor and the daughter of a residential school survivor, was given up for adoption as a child so she wouldn’t be sent to residential school. She sells orange shirts with her own design which depicts two bears encountering the Lillooet mountain ranges in the background, representing the first time she has been able to reconnect with her mother.

« Unfortunately she passed away in August of last year. And she was with me when I was making orange shirts last year. And you know, I can still feel her presence with me this year when I’m making them, » she said. .

Orange Shirt Day was started by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad in 2013 to raise awareness about abuses in the residential school system. At age six, Webstad attended her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission, where her favorite brand new orange shirt she received from her family was taken away and never returned.

In 2021, after the discovery of unmarked graves at the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the federal government accelerated the declaration of September 30 as a statutory holiday.

But the Kamloops discovery has also sparked a rise in the number of sketchy and dishonest online sellers selling orange shirts on online marketplace websites seeking to cash in on the tragedy.

“In these recent reports, the suspicious retailers appear to be using cause-related marketing strategies, where they entice consumers by telling them that…a portion of the purchase price will help charities related to Indigenous peoples,” said the Better Business Bureau in a press release. « However, these retailer websites have no connection to declared charities and simply take advantage of your generosity and willingness to help others. »

However, major retailers such as London Drugs, Giant Tiger and Walmart are touting their partnerships with Indigenous designers to sell orange shirts and have announced that proceeds from shirt sales will go to Indigenous organizations.

Walmart’s shirts were designed by Gitxsan artist Timothy Foster from the House of Niisto in the Lax Seel clan and the company says 100% of the profits from the shirts will go to the Orange Shirt Society, which was founded by Webstad.

London Drugs says it also sends 100% of the profits from its Orange Shirt sales to the Orange Shirt Society. Its shirts were designed by Geraldine Catalbas, a grade 11 student from Ponoka, Alberta, who won a design competition organized by the Society.

Meanwhile, Giant Tiger says all proceeds from the sale of its shirts, designed by Two-Spirit Ojibway artist Patrick Hunter, will go to Indspire, a charity focused on helping Indigenous youth.

But Taphouse notes that it’s often much harder to make that personal connection with the artist if you’re buying from a big retailer.

« I love talking to people who buy the shirt. So, you know, that’s something you won’t get if you go to Walmart or Amazon, » she said. « I always take questions and anything they want to ask. »

« When you’re buying a shirt, be sure to ask who the designer is. And if there’s a story, what’s the story behind it? Because it’s not just about wearing an orange shirt. It’s about honoring survivors of failed residential schools. »

With files from CTV National News Atlantic Bureau Chief Creeson Agecoutay


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