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Indigenous Students Design T-shirts Honouring Reconciliation

Two students from Lakeview Elementary had their designs chosen for district-wide t-shirts honouring Reconciliation. The designs were revealed during Truth and Reconciliation Week in advance of Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Grade 5 student Paige from the Tal-o-qui-aht Nation, and Grade 7 student Alyssa from the Nisga’a Nation created the selected designs. The invitation went out to students from the District’s Indigenous Education team in the last school year. A group from the team came together, reviewed the submissions and were so captivated by Paige’s and Alyssa’s designs that they chose two.

Rob Smyth, District Principal, Indigenous Education:

Not only are the designs incredible and thoughtful. The words of the students and their intention really moved us. Each student was so powerful in sharing how the whole community works together in Reconciliation to move forward in creating a better future.”

The artists’ words describing the meaning behind their designs are printed on the back of each t-shirt.


The Bee represents people “beeing” willing to be honest. The Bear symbolizes the people affected, showing them to be strong and take care of their families and mental health. The Footprints contain the words ‘family,’ ‘health,’ and ‘strength’ which reminds us of the importance of the bear [for] Indigenous Peoples. 

The Bear is working with the Bee to find the honey, which shows how positive community and relationships can happen, just like I hope for in the future for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.”


The matriarch in my design represents the families and the mothers in our community. Embracing the child shows the hurt, but also the love and care in our community that will help us move forward. The Nisga’a name that was gifted to me, Nits’iits’ Lax Yee, it means grandmother, and I see myself in the design. Strength from my ancestors and hope for the future. ‘One heart, one path, one nation.’ “

Indigenous Learning Inquiry Teacher Patricia Buchanan worked with the students and their families to bring this meaningful work forward to the school community and beyond. The students, themselves, were honoured and celebrated at a school assembly for National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

A limited t-shirt production run was shared during Truth and Reconciliation Week. The shirts will be offered district-wide during National Indigenous History Month in June.

The Burnaby School District is honoured to be doing this work on the unceded and ancestral lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and skwx̱wú7mesh speaking people. We acknowledge the stewardship of these lands by the xʷməθkʷəy̓əmSḵwx̱wú7mesh, and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ Nations.

Posted September 2023