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Saskatoon gift shop sells orange shirts to support residential school survivors

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon gift shop sells orange shirts to support residential school survivors' Saskatoon gift shop sells orange shirts to support residential school survivors
WATCH: More people are wearing orange to show their support after hundreds of unmarked graves were found at residential schools – Jun 28, 2021

With national news of hundreds of unmarked graves found at residential schools, more are wearing orange to show their support.

The Wanuskewin gift shops in Saskatoon have been busy.

Every year, the First Nations gift shop sells orange shirts ahead of Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30.

Read more: Backpacks honouring unmarked graves to be displayed at Saskatchewan Legislature July 1

After the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves in Saskatchewan and B.C., the shop said it wanted to make a difference.

All of its proceeds from selling the orange shirts are going to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

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“The big impact was the second residential school when they found (the graves),” said manager Shari Bedient. “I just thought, this isn’t our money.”

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Canada Day a time for ‘reflection’ following Kamloops residential school discovery, ministers say – Jun 23, 2021

Bedient gets a ping on her phone every time they make a sale.

“On the weekend it was constant, any time I looked at my phone,” she said.

“It’s emotional, to see how many people are supporting.”

Make a change in Canada

Bedient said shirts are in such high demand the store only has them left in size 3-X . She said many customers are buying orange shirts ahead of Canada Day, choosing to mark the national holiday differently this year.

Read more: ‘Not something you can get over’: Survivors, youth reflect on lasting residential school impacts

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One professor of Indigenous studies says it’s a good start, but just wearing a shirt isn’t doing enough.

“I mean it’s symbolism, but really what we’re talking about here is altering structures of power in society that allowed these kinds of atrocities to happen,” said Priscilla Settee.

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Settee said it’s important for non-Indigenous people to push for change in Canada.

Meanwhile, Bedient said she doesn’t expect to get new shirts before Canada day. She said she’d like to see them around the city.

Read more: Melville, Sask. postpones Canada Day in light of unmarked graves discovery at Marieval

“A sea of orange,” she said with a smile.

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She said if people want to buy an orange shirt, they should buy one from an Indigenous artist or an artist who is donated some of the proceeds to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

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