Day of Truth & Reconciliation is a national day which honours the resilience, dignity and strength of survivors and intergenerational survivors of Canada’s residential school system and remembers the children who never came home. This day coincides with Orange Shirt Day and is meant to encourage a deeper reflection, learning and dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
To honour Canada’s Indigenous history, Sonepar has bought Orange Shirts for their Brampton, ON, head office associates which are designed by Indigenous artist Patrick Hunter. Through a collaboration between Giant Tiger, Patrick was able to ensure his artwork was easily accessible and all proceeds are donated to the national Indigenous charity Indspire, which invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
From the community of Red Lake, in North-Western Ontario Patrick Hunter is a 2Spirit Ojibway Woodland artist currently based in Toronto specializing in fine and digital artwork, inspired by his Ojibway roots. His mission is to create a broader awareness of Indigenous culture and iconography. Patrick graduated from Sault College in 2011 after having completed a 3-year graphic design program which led him to move to Toronto to pursue a career as a graph designer. “I have always had an interest in creating my own artwork,” Patrick stated. “Eventually I started freelancing and creating original art that I shared through my social media which has led me to partnering with different organizations. Growing up in Red Lake I constantly saw woodland artwork and it has always resonated with me. Canada is a very big place and not all Indigenous people are the exact same. Woodland art is usually created by people who identify as Anishinaabe and explores the relationships between our community, animals, and nature, and is rich with spiritual symbolism,” he said. “Being able to pay homage to my culture and share it with people, including those who are non-Indigenous, is how I’ve been able to raise awareness of my roots with a boarder audience.”
The orange shirts designed by Patrick for Indspire has creative elements which encourages representation, “the artwork on the shirts highlights imagery which I hope all people can identify with, from the Northern Lights, trees, feathers, sunsets, moons and mountains,” he said. “Having our culture reflected in public ways is a large part of the mission I’m trying to accomplish. My goal is to align myself with organizations that are just as passionate about this cause as I am.”
“As hard as this story is to tell, I am glad Giant Tiger has chosen to sell these orange shirts and share the story so non-Indigenous people are aware of what occurred for over 100 years and the systemic issues which have been a part of the culture. Non-Indigenous people wearing these orange shirts is a visual validation that shows support and awareness of the residential school survivors’ and their stories,” Patrick said. “The intention behind my artwork is to initiate conversations about Indigenous culture and our excellence. A lot of the media attention is usually centered around the traumatic
experiences endured, but there is so much more to the Indigenous community and it’s important that we highlight all the beauty that our culture has to offer.”
Patrick encourages Canadian corporations to show their support for Indigenous communities through land acknowledgements, inclusive recruitment processes, and taking steps to include Indigenous culture through artwork in office spaces.
“The world is becoming more connected and seeing my culture reflected in public spaces has really made me feel welcome and proud of who I am as an Ojibway man.” As an artist, Patrick attributes his success from being authentic, leaning into and sharing his culture. He hopes other artists can progress and advance in their career by doing the same.