Indigenous artist behind Orange Shirt Day T-shirt design shares his inspiration

Sep. 8, 2022

2 Min. Read

There is no greater bond than the one between parents and their children.

That was the inspiration for Timothy Foster, a Gitxsan artist from the house of Niisto in the Lax Seel clan who designed the artwork that appears on Orange Shirt Day shirts from Indigenous Proud, available exclusively at Walmart Canada.

Timothy’s design features two orcas – a parent with its young, which symbolizes the love and protection parents have for their children. It was created in memory of his late wife and son, who passed suddenly more than five years ago.

“It represents the beautiful connections we have with our children,” said Timothy, who lives in northwestern British Columbia. “We use our art to tell stories, our legends, our history. And seeing my art on the shirts, it's helping spread awareness of my culture, as well.”

Orange Shirt Day, also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, is held annually on September 30. It’s a day to wear orange to honour the victims, survivors and families impacted by the trauma caused by residential schools in Canada.

It’s estimated that more than 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools. Tragically, some never made it home. The pain is still felt today.

“Reconciliation is not an easy road – there’s trauma that’s very deep,” Timothy said. “There’s cycles that need to be healed.”

On September 30, Walmart Canada associates will be wearing orange shirts in solidarity with Indigenous communities for the second consecutive year.

For each orange shirt sold, 100% of the profits will go to the Orange Shirt Society to support the important work they do in raising awareness about the lasting effects of residential schools. In 2021, Walmart Canada donated $147,000 to the Orange Shirt Society, 100% of profits of orange shirt sales.

“You can’t change the past, but raising awareness is important,” said Rory Williams, a First Nations Walmart Canada Store Manager in Kelowna, B.C. “We’re getting there, but there’s a lot more work than people realize.”

For Angie Gelinas, a Métis Walmart Canada Store Manager in Whitehorse, Yukon, Orange Shirt Day means hope for a better future.

“It lets us recognize loved ones lost but not forgotten and it brings Indigenous cultures together,” she said. “I was adopted as a baby and didn’t know my Métis family. I wear orange to support others who have never been able to meet their families.”

Walmart Canada is exploring ways to use its size and scale to spark change on the road to reconciliation.

In February, Walmart Canada and the Walmart Foundation announced more than $3.5 million in grants to support Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, which is part of the Walmart Foundation’s $20 million USD commitment over five years to advance equity for Indigenous and Black communities in Canada through food security and economic opportunity.

Last December, Walmart Canada announced it was the first exclusive retailer of Klemtu Spirit Hot Smoked Atlantic Salmon, produced by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation in partnership with Mowi Canada West, which helps support Indigenous communities and jobs in Canada.

Additionally, Walmart Canada has donated to several Indigenous organizations, including:

“It makes me really proud to see Walmart participating in Orange Shirt Day,” Rory said. “I want my kids to grow up in a world that is accepting of all people because all people are equal. Every child matters.”