Where you buy your orange shirt matters — here's why

Indigenous advocates and artists are reminding people to buy their orange shirts for Truth and Reconciliation Day from Indigenous led-initiatives.

Proceeds from shirts sold by Indigenous groups and businesses go back to the community directly

Indigenous activists and artists say that knowing where you buy an orange shirt from matters just as much as recognizing the day. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

On Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, many people wear an orange shirt as an act of solidarity. 

It's an acknowledgment of the ongoing harms of residential schools to Indigenous peoples as they continue to heal.     

But some say knowing where you're buying the shirts from is as important as recognizing the day. 

"Right now when we're all learning and healing, and the truth really hasn't been shared fully about residential schools and the history of genocide in Canada," said Jessie Fiddler-Kiss, the founder of an Indigenous non-profit called the Moss Bag Project.

"I think Indigenous people should be leading the way on this."

Shirts sometimes sold fraudulently

Fiddler-Kiss explained that the profits she makes from the shirts are go to Indigenous moms and two-spirit parents for scholarship. 

Her organization also uses the profits to make moss bags for the community. Traditionally, moss bags have been used by Indigenous people to keep infants snugly wrapped.

"It's how we greet our babies when they come here," said Fiddler-Kiss. 

Jessie Fiddler-Kiss, a Métis woman who owns a non-profit, says that the proceeds from the shirts she sells go back to the community directly (Supplied by Jessie-Fiddler Kiss )

The idea of selling the shirts is to raise money for Indigenous-led initiatives and charities, but Autumn Eaglespeaker, co-founder of the Authentically Indigenous Craft Market, says the shirts are sometimes sold fraudulently. 

"It's just completely wrong. Like, it's just morally wrong, morally repugnant," she said.

"At the end of the day, it is good to show your solidarity for issues such as Every Child Matters, but [also] to ensure that the thing that you're purchasing to support it is made by an indigenous artisan or Indigenous business, or the proceeds that are coming from those sales are going back to support movements within community."

Ask before you buy

Eaglespeaker said it's important for buyers to ask questions of the sellers to make sure the money is going to the right causes.

"A group that is using their proceeds toward something won't be afraid of saying where the money is going to, or they won't be afraid of saying how much the portion is going toward to support that cause," she said.

Eaglespeaker and Fiddler-Kiss said people can show support without purchasing an orange shirt as well by making a donation to a local Indigenous-led initiative.

With files from Terri Trembath