Dos and Don'ts As you Plan for Orange Shirt Day 2022

Posted by Lorrie Gallant and Jasmine Wong on September 21, 2022

Friday, September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Orange Shirt Day.  A day for public reckoning with Canada’s Residential School system and solidarity with survivors, those who did not survive these institutions, as well as on their families and communities.   It is also a day for public accountability and (re)commitment to the ongoing process for forging renewed recognition of rights, understandings and relationships between Canada, Canadians, and Indigenous Nations, communities and peoples.

Schools play an important role in realizing the goals of sharing truths of past and ongoing injustices, and shaping young peoples’ commitments to Rights and right relationships.  As you prepare for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day, we hope these tips and the lesson ideas below will help you prepare for a meaningful day of remembrance, action and time for solidarity with survivors, children who were taken and communities who were left behind.

Model for a memorial constructed by students at Dundas Valley Secondary School (HWDSB), created to foster discussions and ongoing remembrance for the truth of what survivors and children who did not survive experienced at the Mohawk Institute, (the Mush Hole) in Brantford, ON.



Start with your district or board's Indigenous Advisory, leads and consultants for direction on teaching resources and events.  There may be a larger plan, resources and specific communities’ wishes your lessons should align with; 

Assimilation and non-Indigenous control of Indigenous Education are violations of sovereignty and Treaty promises; to pursue Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, Indigenous sovereignty must live in Education for Indigenous students.

  • If there are self-identified Indigenous students in your class, ask what they need or would like to see within a safe, private or affinity group space

A one size fits all approach:  

While all students should experience learning that affirms and honours diverse Indigenous identities, knowledges, laws, creativity, civilizations and futures -  stories of trauma, isolation and family separation must be offered with thoughtful attention to:

  • Scaffolding and age readiness
  • Teacher and student readiness to shut down denial and trivializing comments 
  • Students’ personal proximity to trauma and family separation, students’ age and readiness to reflect without globalizing or internalizing fears
  • Availability of (culturally appropriate if possible) care, supports, time and spaces to debrief learning

Invite Indigenous speakers, survivor sharing and experts with appropriate compensation and protocols ahead of Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation so students can prepare and share their responses and commitments on the 30th.   

Before you invite a speaker, consider how you can honour the teachings speakers bring with reciprocity, care and ensure respect and ongoing relationship

Avoid requesting survivors to speak on Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This is a day for survivors to gather together within their communities and to be with their families.

Be Reflective in Planning.  How might a plan for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day:

  • Be experienced by Indigenous students?  Be experienced by non-Indigenous students?
  • Include a reconciliation club or student equity leadership group?  Are there opportunities to equip them to be leaders or allies in spreading awareness beyond the school walls, and beyond September 30th?
  • Inculcate respect and understanding and disrupt stereotypes and deficit narratives?  Are you ensuring stories of pride in identity, courage, resilience and agency are included?
  • Honour learning and listening to hard truths about the intent, practice and implications of the Residential School System?
  • Centre (diverse) Indigenous voices and perspectives, human rights?
  • Move forward individual and collective commitments to actions that align with the 94 Calls to Action (see accountability updates here), MMIWG-FFADA National Action Plan, (see priorities, pp27-29)? 
  • Invite learning and action that extends beyond this day?

Avoid teaching about culture or ceremony if it is not your own and it is not your role; utilize available books, videos, podcasts, films, online exhibits. (see an earlier post on avoiding cultural appropriation here)

Avoid putting Indigenous students on the spot to be experts of language, beliefs, culture etc. for their peers.  Students may themselves be learning.   However, inviting students to share their own personal experiences, roles and gifts within a larger class conversation is valuable and builds greater community, connection and understanding across differences.


Lesson Ideas for the 30th

To find lesson ideas and resources to prepare students for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day, and ideas for creating responses to residential school survivor testimony, read the blog posts below:

Topics: Truth and Reconciliation, classroom lesson, Orange Shirt Day


This is where Canadian Facing History and Ourselves teachers and community members meet to share reflections, scholarship and teaching practices that will inspire, challenge and improve teaching and student learning. Our stories provide a window into diverse Facing History classrooms in Canada, and invite you into the discussion.

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