In observance of Orange Shirt Day 2023

In observance of Orange Shirt Day 2023

Survivors, Native communities and Americans deserve to know the truth and to heal from the trauma

By: Christen Bourgeois Date: September 25th, 2023

Why do we observe Orange Shirt Day? /

On September 30, our nation will observe Orange Shirt Day in memory of the hundreds of thousands of Native children who attended Indian boarding schools since 1819, enduring abuse, neglect, disease, and poor living conditions.

Enacted by the U.S. Federal Government, the Civilization Fund Act of 1819 brought boarding schools to life and introduced “habits and arts of civilization” to Native American children. This allowed more than 350 government-funded Indian boarding schools to open and operate in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries which resulted in decades of historical and generational trauma for Native American children and their families. By 1926, nearly 83% of Native American children school-age children were attending boarding schools.

Known as ‘the war against the children’ the Native American boarding school system — a decades-long effort to assimilate Indigenous people before they ever reached adulthood — robbed children of their culture, family bonds and sometimes their lives.

Today, YOU can join a virtual conversation with leaders on the Truth and Healing Commission Bill (S.1723). 

We are excited to see that the Truth & Healing Commission Bill (S.1723) is gaining momentum! After amendments to the bill from Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs voted unanimously to bring the bill to the full Senate floor.

S.1723, a bill to establish a Truth & Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S., was reintroduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on May 18, 2023 and currently has almost 30 cosponsors.

Survivors, Native communities and Americans deserve to know the truth about the boarding schools. Natives deserve justice. And ALL deserve a chance to become whole from the trauma that continues to impact our world today.

Learn more about this historic legislation & share with your network!

NEW Interactive Digital Map /

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, NEW Interactive Digitial Map of Indian Boarding Schools

Readings /

Albuquerque’s Indian Boarding School History by Antonia Gonzales and Theodore Jojola, New Mexico PBS

A Battle for the Children: American Indian Child Removal in Arizona in the Era of Assimilation by Margaret B. Jacobs, University of Nebraska

A History of the Cemetery at the Albuquerque Indian School by Joe Sabatini, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Tacoma Pierce Health Department, Do you know about Orange Shirt Day? A day to remember and reconcile.

Hopi Prisoners on the Rock by Wendy Holliday, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office

Rolling Stone, Kids Were Marched Everywhere. This Was a Concentration Camp.

Kill the Indian, Save the Man by Jane Yu, Pennsylvania Center for the Book

Library of Congress Blog, Orange Shirt Day and Residential Schools for Native Children in the U.S.

The New York Times, The Native American Boarding School System For more than 150 years, spurred by federal assimilation policies beginning in the early 19th century, hundreds of thousands of Native American children were sent to boarding schools across the country. In many cases, they were forcibly removed from their homes.

The Seattle Times, After four years, tribal canoes journey Salish Sea once more – The canoe families traveled from villages spanning Warm Springs, Oregon to Alaska, converging at stops along the shores of the outer coast and Salish Sea to share community, songs, meals and stories. It was the first journey since 2019 — since the pandemic began — and for many, a needed return to the water.

The Washington Post, 12 years of hell’: Indian boarding school survivors share their storiesForced by the federal government to attend the schools, Native American children were sexually assaulted, beaten and emotionally abused.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Releases Investigative Report, Outlines Next Steps in Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

Resources /

Bureau of Indian Affairs’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report, which classified schools based on four criteria: provided on-site housing; provided formal academic or vocational training; received federal funds or other federal support; and operated before 1969.

Native Crisis Line provides FREE 24/7 confidential crisis support (text NATIVE to 741741)

Native and Strong Lifeline is now integrated into the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline system in Washington state

Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center

Center for Black, Brown, and Queer Studies

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project

Orange Shirt Society

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs

Videos to watch /

HeraldNet, Survivor’s story: Snohomish man, 76, lives with boarding school trauma

PBS NewsHour, WATCH LIVE: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland gives update on Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

PBS NewsHour, Research uncovers role of churches and religious groups in Indigenous boarding schools

Very Local, Documentary: The Lost Children of Carlisle


Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior ( and Indian Affairs (, The New York Times (, The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), Anchorage Alaska News (