The founder of Orange Shirt Day is disappointed others appear to be making profits on artwork and designs owned by the not-for-profit Orange Shirt Society.
“It’s disheartening and I just have to rely on the morality of people,” executive director Phyllis Webstad said.
Held annually on Sept. 30 since 2013, Webstad’s true childhood story serves as the inspiration of Orange Shirt Day that has grown into a nationwide movement.Her new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken away from her on her first day at St. Joseph Mission near Williams Lake when she was six years old.
Webstad said she is aware of at least four websites that are selling T-shirts with designs the society owns without their permission.
To address that the society hopes to trademark the slogan “Every Child Matter” within the next 12 to 14 months, she said.
“Once we have a trademark then we can issue a trademark letter to cease and desist but until then all we can do is send them an e-mail and ask people to stop.”
Before COVID-19 was declared a public health crisis, Webstad was nearing the completion of the Paths to Reconciliation National Tour to help students learn about the inter-generational impacts of residential schools.
Her last stop at Haida Gwaii was cancelled.
Webstad said sales of shirts and books, as well as donations is supporting the society in remaining operational.
Her newest book, Orange Shirt Day, which tells the story of how Orange Shirt Day started and those involved is anticipated to be released mid-August.
“When I speak I say I didn’t just get out of bed one day and decide Sept. 30 would be Orange Shirt Day,” Webstad said. “There’s a whole line of events and people that are involved, events that happened for it to be what it is and it just happens to be my story.”
Her previous book The Orange Shirt Story has been listed as a finalist in the 2020 Indigenous Voices Awards. Winners will be announced at a virtual gala on June 21 marking National Indigenous Peoples Day.