Orange Shirt Day: Honouring the Past, Shaping a Better Future

Spirit Bear Coffee's Orange Shirt

Orange Shirt Day, commemorated every September 30th, stands as a powerful testament to the resilience of Indigenous communities. It's a day that pays tribute to the countless Indigenous children taken from their homes and forced into residential schools. This pivotal moment in our collective history serves as a somber reminder of the need for reconciliation and the urgency of keeping memories alive for the betterment of tomorrow.

The Origins of Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day traces its origin back to Phyllis Webstad's story. As a young Northern Secwepemc girl attending St. Joseph Mission Residential School, Phyllis was stripped of her new orange shirt on her first day at the school. A shirt she was proud of, taken away, symbolizing the erasure of the Indigenous identity she held dear.


The event, now marked every September 30th, stands as a testament to the survivors of the Indian Residential School system. Furthermore, it seeks to affirm the belief that every child matters, fostering understanding and promoting reconciliation.

From Shield of Protection to Orange Shirt

Fast forward to 2016. Spirit Bear co-founder Sean Harding commissioned Clint George from the Penticton Indian Band to craft a shield of protection for Sean’s residence in Osoyoos. This wasn't just any shield. It portrayed a Chief holding aloft a buffalo head, a symbol of strength, unity, and resilience. With a single feather paired with a triad of others, it also paid tribute to the 13-moons calendar. This is a nod to the cyclical passage of time and the wisdom of our ancestors.
Shield of Protection artwork

By the summer of 2021, the world reeled from the heartbreaking revelation of 215 lost souls in Kamloops. Consequently, Spirit Bear launched an Orange Shirt inspired by the protective shield's design. It bears a powerful message for every wearer and observer.

Front of Spirit Bear's Orange Shirt design


The back of the shirt carries even deeper layers of meaning. Lyrics reminiscent of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" are a tribute to Sean’s favorite band. But more than a mere musical homage, they evoke the philosophy of "7 generations" thinking, mirroring the ethos of Orange Shirt Day: every child matters.

The writing, penned with a black feather representing the protection of the angels, pays homage to the children who endured, and those who never made it home.


Back of Spirit Bear's Orange Shirt design


Wearing the Message, Supporting the Cause

Our Orange Shirt is more than just apparel; it's a declaration. With every purchase, you aren't just donning a piece of clothing; you're supporting a cause. In addition, sales proceeds go to the Orange Shirt Day organization and the IRSSS (Indian Residential School Survivors Society). It's our way of standing in solidarity, ensuring that the truths of the past shape a more inclusive and compassionate future.

This Orange Shirt Day, remember the stories of survival, the strength of Indigenous communities, and our relentless drive for a better tomorrow. Together, let’s bear witness to history and shape a future where every child, indeed, matters.