Phyllis Webstad

Phyllis Jack Webstad is a Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) author from the Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation, and the creator of Orange Shirt Day, a day of remembrance marked in Canada later instated as the public holiday of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. She is a First Nations residential school survivor.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] She has written multiple books, including a picture book depicting her experience with the Indian residential school system.[8][9][10][11]

Phyllis Webstad
BornPhyllis Jack
1967 (age 55–56)
Williams Lake, British Columbia
SubjectCanadian Indian residential school system
Years active2018 to present
Notable worksThe Orange Shirt Story

National Day for Truth and ReconciliationEdit

The inspiration for the Canadian public holiday National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, originally called Orange Shirt Day, came from Webstad, who shared her story at a St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion event held in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in the spring of 2013. Webstad recounted her first day of residential schooling at six years old, when she was stripped of her clothes, including the new orange shirt her grandmother bought her, which was never returned. The orange shirt now symbolizes how the residential school system took away the indigenous identity of its students.[3][4][5][6][12] It is held annually on September 30 as a national day of remembrance in Canadian communities, where people are encouraged to wear an orange shirt. It was elevated to a statutory holiday for federal employees by the Canadian government in 2021.[13]

Orange Shirt Day exists as a legacy of the SJM Project, and September 30 signifies the time of year when Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools. The official tagline of the day, "Every Child Matters", reminds Canadians that all peoples' cultural experiences are important.[4][6]

In addition to simply wearing an orange shirt, Canadians are encouraged to learn more about the history of residential schools and their assimilation practices, drawing from Phyllis' experience in particular. For instance, many communities have held memorial walks, film screenings, and public lectures to raise awareness about Indigenous history.[14] Accordingly, school boards across Canada have begun to use this event to teach children about the historic system.[15]

She is profiled in Sean Stiller's 2021 documentary film Returning Home.[16]


  • The Orange Shirt Story (2018)[11][17][18]
  • Phyllis's Orange Shirt (2019)

Personal lifeEdit

Early lifeEdit

Webstad is Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation and was born on Dog Creek Reserve, near Williams Lake, British Columbia.[19]


Phyllis Webstad is married, and has one son, a step-son and five grandchildren.[19]


  1. ^ Larsen, Karin (June 9, 2021). "Better Business Bureau warns of scammers falsely claiming to support Indigenous causes". CBC. Retrieved June 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "'Profit from other people's pain': Residential school survivors warn of stolen designs on orange shirts". Vancouver Island. 2021-06-16. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
  3. ^ a b "Phyllis (Jack) Webstad's story in her own words..." Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "The Story of Orange Shirt Day". Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Orange Shirt Day: How a 6-year-old's 1st day at residential school inspired a movement". CBC News. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Orange Shirt Day". Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. University of British Columbia. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Sinclair, Murray; Littlechild, Wilton; Wilson, Marie (2015). "The Survivors Speak" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Truth and Reconciliation Commission. pp. 39–45. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  8. ^ "Residential school survivor whose orange shirt inspired a movement co-authors textbook". North Shore News. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
  9. ^ "Phyllis Webstad reflects on inspiring Orange Shirt Day and starting a movement". CBC. September 25, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Small Victoria publisher makes Orange Shirt Day picture books when no one else would". Quill and Quire. September 27, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Robertson, David (June 10, 2021). "48 books by Indigenous writers to read to understand residential schools". CBC. Retrieved June 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Sinclair, Murray; Littlechild, Wilton; Wilson, Marie (2015). "The Survivors Speak" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Truth and Reconciliation Commission. pp. 39–45. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  13. ^ Bryden, Joan (3 June 2021). "Royal assent given to bill creating national day for truth and reconciliation". CTVNews. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Reconciliation week: Orange Shirt Day arrives early at B.C. Legislature". CBC News. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  15. ^ "AVRSB marks Orange Shirt Day to support First Nations students". The Chronicle Herald. October 17, 2017. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  16. ^ Justin Bell, "EIFF Review: Returning Home". Edmonton Journal, October 1, 2021.
  17. ^ Ellis, Danika (2021-06-04). "Picture Books To Teach Children About Residential Schools". BOOK RIOT. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
  18. ^ "Online educational activities kick off Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival". ottawacitizen. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
  19. ^ a b haggert (2020-08-21). "Survivor: The story of Phyllis Webstad and Orange Shirt Day". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 2021-06-18.

External linksEdit