In less than a week, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society has sold more than 800 of their 1,000 orange T-shirts that were made in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday (Sept. 30).
The orange, tie-dye T-shirts were made by volunteers and staff at the organization, as well as members from the City of Kelowna. Written on the shirt is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, with a logo designed by Kody Woodmass, the organization’s strategic planning coordinator.
“This logo represents the flame being passed from one generation to the next, keeping our cultures and traditions alive,” said the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society. “Together, let us pave the way towards a brighter future.”
Woodmass said the community support for the T-shirts reflects a step in the right direction.
“We’re really taking a step in the right direction. It should’ve happened a very long time ago, and it’s sad to see that it’s taking this long to honour those people that have been affected by residential schools,” said Woodmass.
“But we’re just so happy that it’s finally coming together and that we’re getting so much support from the community.”
The orange T-shirt has become a national symbol that honours victims of Canada’s residential school system. It was influenced by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation Elder in Williams Lake, and her experience from her first day at residential school in 1973 when she was six.
“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again,” Webstad said on the Orange Shirt Day website.
“The colour orange has always reminded me of that and 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.”
All proceeds from the sales of the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society’s orange shirts, which Woodmass estimates to be around $8,000, will go towards funding the organization’s Original Born Art social enterprise and e-commerce program. While still in its early stages, the program will sell art produced by local Indigenous youth, with proceeds going back to the artists.
“It’s a way to kind of tackle some of the fake Indigenous art going around,” said Woodmass. “We want to have things local, authentic and we want to make sure that people can gain the skills that they can carry on with them for the rest of their lives.
Giving back to Indigenous youth, he continued, is all about capacity building.
“If we can do some preventative measures and help these individuals grow and learn tangible skills that they can utilize later on in their life, then this is how the change is going to happen,” he said. “We make the change start from the beginning, start from the youth and create a better future for these individuals.”
While the centre is closed on Thursday, a ceremony will be hosted on Wednesday outside of the group’s location at 442 Leon Avenue, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.