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Shirts designed by Porter Creek Secondary students help mark day of reconciliation

Funds raised by shirt sale going to Commitee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society

“Every Child Matters”

These are the words front and centre on two t-shirts designed by Tlingit students in Porter Creek Secondary’s Fashion Art Design School (FADS) program.

The class of Grade 10 students taught by Kyla Greve produced and sold the t-shirts as a way of marking Orange Shirt Day, September 30. The day has been observed for years as a time to reflect on the harm caused by residential schools but this year it was officially designated the National Day For Truth and Reconciliation. The proceeds from the sale of the t-shirts allowed the class to send a $650 donation to the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.

Reconciliation and the effects of the residential school system have been in the public eye following the discovery of 215 graves at a former residential school in Kamloops British Columbia

The Orange Shirt Day T-shirt designed by Kayoni Dickson-Camilleri, a student of the Porter Creek Secondary FADS program. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

The students responsible for the patterns on the shirts say they will be proud to see their designs worn by their classmates and teachers on Sept. 30.

Kayoni Dickson-Camilleri’s design shows a stark black handprint with a smaller one, representing a young child’s hand in lighter colour in the palm. The “Every Child Matters” text is wrapped around the outside of the hand.

“Basically my design represents the bigger hand being for those who grew from residential school or moved through all of that stuff. The littler one is for the children that we’ve recently found out that we lost,” she said.

“I was just hoping that my design helps open up people’s perspective and eyes on certain things.”

Peter Johns drafted the other design that will be seen on T-Shirts around Porter Creek Secondary. Johns’ shirts depict a crying sun overlooking rolling hills and a grave with an ash box in it. Along with “Every Child Matters” in large font, Johns’ design bears the words “How Many More?” He said this became an important question as the total number of graves at residential school sites grew from the 215 found in Kamloops to more than 1,000 located at other former residential school sites.

The Orange Shirt Day T-shirt designed by Peter Johns from the Porter Creek Secondary FADS program. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

“That ash box just shows the ashes of the kids and the killer whale and the eagle represent the kids going off to the afterlife.”

He said the killer whale and the eagle are significant symbols for the Tlingit Dakl’awedi clan that he belongs to.

“I hope my design gets the message across that we cannot forget these children and that all children’s lives matter,” Johns said.

The project was a chance for both Dickson-Camilleri and Johns to put their artistic talents to work for a good cause. Johns said he comes from an artistic family and writes music, draws and sketches outside of class time. Dickson-Camilleri said she has loved art for a long time and wants to work in fashion. After hearing about the FADS class from a friend, she said she was excited to join it.

Students in Porter Creek Secondary School's Fashion Art Design School program produced orange T-shirts designed by Kayoni Dickson-Camilleri and Peter Johns (standing, third and fourth from left).(Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

Greve said it was important to allow Tlingit students to take the lead on the designs but the rest of the class assisted with the project. They learned valuable skills by tub-dying the white t-shirts a brilliant shade of orange and then screen-printing the designs on the front.

“For the end of the year, they come up with a collection, like for a fashion show. So now they have the skills that they can make their own shirt designs and be able to sell that.”

She said the shirts were the result of a two-week project for the class. The 57 shirts that the class dyed, printed and sold were donated to the FADS program, ensuring that all proceeds could go directly to the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.

All 57 of the shirts sold promptly, mostly to the families of the students and to staff members at Porter Creek Secondary.

Greve said that this is the first time the FADS program has included an Orange Shirt Day project, but based on its success this year, she thinks it will be making a return in the future.

“We’ve got lots lots of support. And especially if we open it up more publicly, I think we could get this to be a pretty big fundraiser for the Yukon.”

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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