While Canada today recognizes the third annual
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour the children, survivors, families and communities affected by
residential schools, the day has long held significant meaning for the
Since 2013, Sept. 30 has been Orange Shirt Day, which was started by
residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad. She wore an orange shirt on
her first day at the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in the fall of
1973, which was taken from her by staff.
“The color orange has always reminded me of … how my feelings didn’t
matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us
little children were crying and no one cared,” Webstad shared at OrangeShirtDay.org.
Webstad launched the Orange Shirt Society “to be able to tell my story so
that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel
comfortable enough to share their stories.”
Last year, the Orange Shirt Society expended into the sporting community
with the creation of the Orange Jersey Project, with
Webstad’s son, Jeremy Boston, serving as project manager. According to the
website, the project was born out of an idea – “What if we could use the
power of sport to serve as a vehicle toward educating today’s young
athletes about the history of the Indian Residential School System and
strengthen the path toward truth and reconciliation with Indigenous
As part of that education, each jersey features a QR code that links to an
online platform that will help children discover the history of residential
schools, with the goal to encourage learning, engagement, sharing and
The project began with hockey jerseys during the 2021-22 season, more than 20,000 of which have been distributed to hundreds of teams from coast to coast to coast over the last two seasons.
Last season, the Orange Jersey Project partnered with the Western Hockey League (WHL), with all teams wearing a special WHL Truth and Reconciliation logo in early October 2022. (Teams will do so again this season, beginning today.) In addition, 11 teams wore special-edition orange jerseys during warmups prior to games in February 2023, which were later auctioned off.
At the conclusion of the campaign, $22,500 was donated to the Orange Jersey Project, funds that will go towards providing more minor hockey teams with their own orange jerseys.
On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, HockeyCanada.ca caught up
with Boston to discuss the Orange Jersey Project, continuing his mother’s
passion project and what the future holds.
Where did the idea for the Orange Jersey Project come from?
The Orange Jersey Project was created by Tyler Fuller, an Indigenous male
from Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan who played pro hockey in the
Central Hockey League (CHL) and International Hockey League (IHL). The idea
of the Orange Jersey Project was born from an idea that came while Tyler
and his wife Amanda were watching the news when the remains of the 215
children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc were uncovered.
Tyler and Amanda came up with the idea to design a hockey jersey as a way
to inform people about residential school survivors and victims. Tyler
contacted Chief Willie Sellars of Williams Lake First Nation and asked for
his guidance. Chief Sellars directed Tyler to Phyllis Webstad, the founder
of the Orange Shirt Society, who introduced Tyler to the OSS executive
director, who helped get the ball rolling.
Why was it important for the Orange Shirt Society to expend into
Sports, such as hockey, are a great vessel for all Indigenous and
non-Indigenous to come together to learn the real history of Canada. The
Orange Shirt Society is designed to encourage action for truth and
reconciliation and can help educate athletes about the history of the
residential school system in Canada. The Orange Shirt Society works to
create awareness of the intergenerational impacts of residential schools
and the concept of Every Child Matters.
Why is this project important to your family and to the Indigenous
Four generations of my family have attended residential schools. My
great-grandmother Lena Jack, my grandmother Rose Wilson and my mother
Phyllis Webstad attended residential schools. I attended the last
operational school in Canada in 1996. It is important for the path of
healing and new beginnings in a Canada we all love. To overcome barriers
between Indigenous and non-Indigenous to become one and come together as we
continue to educate and learn together on our path for truth and
How can interested teams get their orange jerseys?
Beginning today, teams can visit OrangeJerseyProject.ca to
register and request orange practice jerseys, as well as the curriculum
program, at no cost, while supplies last.
Once teams have received their jerseys, they’re encouraged to choose
several practices throughout the season dedicated to wearing the jerseys
and spending a few minutes acknowledging the Treaty Lands upon which they
are playing and the Indigenous Peoples who reside there. We also invite
teams to participate in team-building activities off the ice to work
through the curriculum together.
Hockey was first … which sports are next?
Currently our main focus is hockey, but we are planning to expand into other sports beginning sometime in 2024.