Orange shirt pin-making kits spread out across Chatham-Kent

Chatham-Kent Indigenous Peer Navigator holds up a Takwihleew orange shirt pin. (Photo courtesy of CTCK)

Thousands of little orange shirts are making their way across Chatham-Kent ahead of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Chatham-Kent Indigenous Peer Navigator Lana Parenteau and her granddaughter Sky first started making pins in the shape of orange shirts after the announcement of the discovery of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in 2021.

Parenteau has now teamed up with Come Together CK to supply the Chatham-Kent Public Library with orange shirt pin-making kits for residents to take home and make their own.

“We started with 30 pins,” said Parenteau. “That’s exactly how it started and now we have about 80,000 pins out there.”

Once the pins are made, residents can bring them back to the library for distribution or keep them and hand them out to their friends and family.

“It has become a project for all of us, just as it is our shared history,” said Parenteau. “We all have something to learn.  As we craft, talk, learn, and grow, maybe it will start toward learning the truth so we can have reconciliation.”

The orange shirt was chosen as a symbol after survivor Phyllis Webstad told the story of her first day at residential school, according to Parenteau. She was a six-year-old whose new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her.

“The shirts are called Takwihleew, which means come together,” said Parenteau. “We wanted to name them after where they originated from. They aren’t mine to keep, they are mine to give.”

Each kit includes materials to make 10 pins, as well as instructions on how to make them. The kits are free to the public.

“Make as many pins as you would like, pass along as many pins or pin kits as you would like,” said CTCK Executive Director Brent Wilken. “Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day is on September 30th, however, these pins can be worn every day to show we are recognizing our history, together.”

Pins and pin kits are also available by visiting the Community Shop at the Downtown Chatham Centre.