With so many online sellers demolishing the designs of indigenous artists to sell merchandise for Orange Shirt Day on September 30th, artists are warning people to make sure they buy from a source that supports residential school survivors.
The counterfeits have become so productive that it has become difficult to source blank orange shirts across the country as companies with no indigenous affiliations buy them in bulk to “benefit from the suffering of boarding school survivors,” said Kristin Spray, who an annual orange. organizes Shirt Day event in Centennial Square with residential school survivor Eddy Charlie.
Spray and Charlie sell shirts designed by WÌ±SÃNEÄ artist Bear Horne through their website and several local stores. Spray said about 10 different outlets stole the design, even changed the colors and removed Hornes signature from his work, and she knows many artists have seen something similar.
Charlie said he found it âoutrageousâ that companies were ripping off artists out of greed for profit, without providing any proceeds to survivors or raising awareness.
“They don’t even talk about what the design means or why it’s important to talk about dormitories,” Charlie said.
For those looking to buy a shirt for September 30th, Spray and Charlie recommend asking the seller who the artist is and where the proceeds from the sale will go. If in doubt, Spray suggests contacting artists directly to ask where they sell their shirts. The process can also lead to new connections and learn more about the artist’s work, she said.
âThese are not just designs. Many of the designs on shirts are stories too. And artists have an important place to share those stories when there is trust or a connection is made, âsaid Spray.
Proceeds from orange t-shirts and other merchandise that Spray and Charlie sell will be used to organize the annual event, including paying survivors who share their stories, indigenous leaders who give land recognitions and prayers, and year-round Spray and Charlie work to raise awareness. The Hornes-designed shirts can be purchased online at victoriaorangeshirtday.com, Moss Street Market on Saturdays, and island stores like Cafe Fantastico on Quadra, Discovery Coffee, and Victory Barbers and Brand. A full list can be found on the event website.
Nuu Chah Nulth artist Art Charlie sells his own design on t-shirts in downtown stores including Spirit of Victoria, Moose Crossing, Cedar Moon and Northwest Origins, where he works as an assistant manager.
The shirts come with a short biography of Charlie and a description of the design, which features a wolf, eagle, raven and bear around a moon, a symbol of protection and transformation, âhe said.
Charlie receives one dollar for every shirt sold, with the remainder going to the Orange Shirt Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
The University of Victoria sells shirts designed by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Carey Newman in their bookstore. Profits go to Newman’s Witness Blanket Project, the Orange Shirt Society, and the Elders Engagement Fund.
The Royal BC Museum’s gift shop also sells Orange Shirt Day shirts, proceeds of which will go to the Orange Shirt Society and the BC Aboriginal Child Care Association.
Shirts can also be purchased direct from the Orange Shirt Society, a nonprofit that was created to create awareness of the intergenerational impact of boarding schools.
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