The Orange Shirt, and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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On September 30, 2021, Canada will commemorate the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Why do we wear orange on September 30? What is National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and what should we, as people living on treaty lands, do on that day? 

Many people in Canada are still learning what roles we can all play in reconciliation. But with the establishment of a new federal statutory holiday in 2021, the Canadian government has set aside an annual day, Sept 30, for people across Canada to unite in honouring the lost children and Survivors of residential schools.

Origins of Orange Shirt Day

It has been almost ten years since the very first Orange Shirt Day, inspired by a story told by Phyliss Jack Webstad in Williams Lake, BC, on September 30, 2013. As a young child, Webstad had her orange shirt - a special gift from her Grandmother - taken away from her when she first arrived at residential school.

Her efforts to bring to light the devastating impacts of the residential school system that continue to affect countless First Nations has been profound. We encourage readers to learn more about Orange Shirt Day origins and the ongoing efforts.

Ever since, an Orange Wave of momentum has grown raising awareness of all the Survivors but also all the children that never made it home from residential schools in Canada. As a much-needed step the Federal Government has officially recognized the important need for this conversation and education to occur at the national level. 


ZenSeekers is committed to reconciliation and we invite you to join us in walking the path forward.

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Kiixin cultural experience on Vancouver Island.
Photographer: Jaiden George
Wishkii, of the Huu-ay-aht people, shares cultural teachings with visitors to Kiixin on Vancouver Island's West Coast.

Observing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Beyond wearing your orange shirt, what can you do on this day? The Government of Canada, Indigenous Tourism Alberta and Indigenous Tourism BC collectively encourage spending the day in reflection, education, dialogue and action (see the event links below for ideas on ways to engage).

The Government of Canada upon announcing this very important recognition stated, “The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

Indigenous Tourism Alberta wrote recently on their website; “On September 30, we wear orange as a visual reminder of our shared past as both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and take this opportunity for education and dialogue on our shared history.”

We will wear our orange shirts, we will participate in the activities but we will also be certain to come to observing this day in a good way. We will be taking note from the wise words shared by Indigenous Tourism BC on how to actively engage on September 30:

“Use this day as a time of reflection that Canada is responsible for the deaths and suffering of Indigenous children at residential institutions across the nation. Take an honest look at current Canadian reality and our part in it. Step forward as a witness to the hard truths, and accept responsibility to learn and change. Reconciliation is not just the responsibility of government – it is a responsibility that belongs to all Canadians.”

Carrying a voyageur canoe at Métis Crossing, AB.
Photographer: Paul Lavoie
Métis Crossing offers visitors the chance to immerse in Indigenous heritage, like this voyageur canoe experience.

Events in Alberta and BC

On this coming September 30, we hope you will take the time to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

To help you find a way to take part in this day of awareness and action you can find below links to compiled lists of current planned activities and we hope that one is happening near you.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta event listings

Indigenous Tourism BC event listings

If you're looking for travel experiences that deepen your understanding of Indigenous culture in Canada, try one of these Alberta and BC experiences.

For more ways to engage with Indigenous culture and experiences in Canada, please subscribe to our ZenSeekers e-newsletter. 

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