orange paper shirts hanging toward skyAn installation in the Leddy Library contains about 6,000 small orange shirts, the unofficial number of unmarked graves of Indigenous children found on the grounds of former residential schools in the U.S. and Canada.

Artwork honours Orange Shirt Day

While the exact number of residential school-related deaths remains unknown due to incomplete records, there are estimates that more than 6,000 unmarked graves have been found to date. An art installation displayed this week in the Leddy Library honours those victims.

Located in the library’s main stairwell, the installation contains roughly 6,000 small shirts cut from orange paper and strung together.

“A single strand of shirts was added on Aug. 31 and, like the Indigenous children who were ripped from their families over time, we’ve been adding more shirts each day leading up to Orange Shirt Day,” says the artist, Marcie Demmans.

The library’s communication co-ordinator, she is Cree and part of the Muskoday First Nation community.

She credits the library’s Public Relations Committee with helping to complete the work.

“It represents the thousands of young souls who didn’t make it home from residential school and have returned to the creator in the spirit world,” Demmans says.

The installation can be viewed from a variety of angles, but she suggests patrons observe it from the bottom of the stairwell.

“Turn your head to the sky and see the souls returning to the spirit world,” she says. “Take a moment to remember, reflect, and commit to reconciliation.”

Find more information about the Orange Shirt Day installation on the library website.

The University will observe Orange Shirt Day today — Friday, Sept. 29. A ceremony beginning at 9:15 a.m. at the Wyandotte Street entrance to Turtle Island Walk will feature speakers, a walk, and the raising of the “Every Child Matters” flag. Learn more on the University’s Orange Shirt Day website.

Watch a video on the University’s commitment to the principles of Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation: