Treaty Book Talk

Treaty Book Talks

Webstad, P. (2018). Orange Shirt Day. Medicine Wheel Education.

The story of Phyllis Webstad entitled The Orange Shirt Story depicts her time when she first came to a residential school. The book is broken into five different scences including Phyllis as a young child, her grandmother taking her to the city (where she got her orange shirt), Phyllis coming to the residential school, how she was treated in school and her returning to her grandmother. Since this is a children’s book it does not show some of the horrible things that happen to Indigenous people during this time so it should be accompanied by researched facts or at the minimum the appendix at the back.


Depending on the age of the students I would either use this as a class reading or a group reading. If my class was to read it all together, I would stop after each scene to show what areas were depicted properly and what things were hidden in the story. For example, as Phyllis explains her life on the reserve I can bring forward facts and pictures to show students how life was living on reserves. For older students I was either read the book as a class or in small groups to access their prior knowledge and have them make personal connections to Orange Shirt Day. Once students have connections and have accessed their prior knowledge, they could research and analyze residential schools and the effect they had on Indigenous culture within Canada.  I understand that this book shows residential schools and reserves in a very simple way without going into detail so the book should not be used in isolation.



Treaty Education Outcome Explanation
SI82: Assess the impact residential schools have on First Nations communities.


·      Compare stories of First Nations

·      people who attended residential schools to the experiences students have had in their own schools.

·      Investigate how First Nations people were forced to learn languages and cultures other than their own.

·      Represent the effects of residential schools on First Nations’ languages and cultures.

·      Examine how First Nations and communities continue to deal with and heal from the abuses experienced by First Nation peoples in residential schools.

·      Assess the importance of the official apology offered by the Canadian government as recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples for the tragic outcomes of the Residential School Era.


This book is telling the true story of how Indigenous students were treated in residential schools.


This book would be a great way to start the discussion about residential schools and the racism that happened with in them.


The book discusses how Phyllis was unable to wear her own clothes or speak her own language so students can see that the Canadian government was attempting to remove everything the Indigenous students associated with their home culture and replace it with the European cultural practices.

Have students read the appendix as well as responses to the apology both from the Canadian Government side as well as the Indigenous peoples to see what importance an apology holds.

SI42: Examine the intent of treaty in relation to education.


·      Discuss why First Nations

·      signatories believed there was a benefit to both European education and traditional ways of learning.

·      Research the forms of education that First Nations people have experienced since the treaties were signed.

·      Discuss why some First Nations peoples refer to “education is our new buffalo” (i.e., the means to survive in the new world with the newcomers).


Have students look at the intent of education with the treaties and see how it is different or similar to what happened within residential schools. The promise was to educate Indigenous students in European ways and vice versa but that is not what happened.

Talk to students about what was meant by free education as well since to some free education includes post-secondary education while others believe it should not.

Curricular Outcomes Explanation

Assess how historical events in Canada have affected the present Canadian identity


Residential schools play a huge role is the lack of trust between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples. Using the book can help students connect with the historical events more and starting point for research about Canada’s history. The appendix also has some explanations of the effects residential schools have on present day society including reason for Orange shirt day.

Investigate the meaning of culture and the origins of Canadian cultural diversity.

(d) Analyze shared characteristics among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures in Canada.
(e) Investigate why First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities strive to preserve and revitalize their languages, and determine the consequences of the disappearance of cultures and languages.
Have students read the book, in particular the appendix at the end, that explains that Phyllis had to learn how to be proud of her heritage. Students will be able to see how cultural characteristic were taken away from the Indigenous peoples and be able to understanding how difficult it would be to regain that culture.


The idea of being Canadian can also be discussed such as why some Indigenous peoples do not identify as Canadian and how Canada’s history has affected the cultural diversity.


Use the arts to raise awareness on topics of concern to Indigenous artists in dance, drama, music, and visual arts.


This could be used as a form of assessment for the outcome above. I would have students research topics of concern to Indigenous artist to see if it is linked to Canadian history (outcome DR 8.3)