Two-spirited Ojibway Woodland artist Patrick Hunter has collaborated with a national Indigenous charity to release an orange shirt that’s being sold in Giant Tiger stores across Canada.
The custom shirt designed by Hunter is intended to help spread awareness for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts going to Indspire, a charitable organization that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to help them reach their greatest potential.
“Giant Tiger is such a beloved store in a lot of smaller communities — I mean, that’s kind of where I’m from too — so it’s pretty cool,” said Hunter, a Sault College graduate who’s originally from Red Lake, Ont. “I haven’t quite fully grasped how many stores they have across Canada, but the feeling nonetheless is absolute excitement.”
Hunter says the image he designed for the orange shirt is derived from Indspire’s own logo.
“It’s an eagle, and there’s a lot of Indigenous iconography within the actual eagle itself,” said Hunter. “I just wanted to create something that people could identify with, whether it be the northern lights or connection to nature — so that would be like trees and the florals that are on it. There’s a sunset and mountains in it, feathers, water, paddles, [Inuksuit, plural form of Inukshuk] as well.
“I think those are things that Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people as well can relate to from coast to coast, which was the design challenge — how do you create something that will hopefully resonate across cultures from every coast of this country? But I think I did it — I hope I did.”
In a news release issued Wednesday, Giant Tiger touted the retail chain as a long-standing partner of Indspire which supports three programs through its Charitable Giving Fund by donating $75,000 to the national charity annually as part of a three-year partnership:
- Soaring: Indigenous Youth Empowerment Gathering – Bringing together hundreds of Indigenous high school students from across the country for a career conference and campus day with workshops by Indspire sponsors to help them plan their future careers and encourage them to stay in school
- Building Brighter Futures: Bursary, Scholarship and Awards – The GT Bursary Program for students in GT communities and Indigenous youth across Canada. Students will receive awards to help them reach their full potential and remove financial barriers to education
- Rivers to Success: Indigenous Student Mentorship – Consists of three streams of service: High School Stream for students in Grade 10-12, Post-Secondary Stream for Grade 12 students going into post-secondary or any year post-secondary students, and Career Transition Stream for students in the last year of study preparing to transition to the workplace.
"There are many steps on the path towards reconciliation," said Indspire's president and chief executive officer Mike DeGagné in the release. "From building relationships to reducing barriers, it is an ever-changing and participatory action, and we value partners like Giant Tiger for walking this path with us to improve educational access for Indigenous learners."
Hunter sees the orange as a “bright, happy colour that stops people in their tracks” while providing an ‘in’ for Canadians to learn about the residential school system and its impacts.
“When someone goes through something really traumatic and hard, validation is what, I think, survivors are looking for, and empathy is probably one of the easiest things that we as humans can offer up to each other,” said Hunter. “I think Indigenous people seeing the non-Indigenous culture support and solidarity for something they went through, I think it’s such an awesome thing.”
Hunter’s custom orange shirt is available now at the 260-plus Giant Tiger stores across Canada and online through the Giant Tiger website.