Every dollar spent on an orange T-shirt for Truth and Reconciliation Day should be a conscious effort to uplift an Indigenous business or community, experts say.

Shopping for orange T-shirts from Indigenous businesses is a tangible step toward economic reconciliation, said Rob Schulz, founder of online marketplace ShopFirstNations.

For anyone unsure how to find those businesses, here are some tips for finding an orange shirt ahead of Sept. 30.

Shop Indigenous 

Pledging to purchase items from Indigenous vendors not only supports their business, it serves the whole community. Indigenous businesses bring resources back into their communities, said Jacob Crane, the Indigenous entrepreneurship program manager at United College in Waterloo, Ont.

Know where the money goes

Experts say it is important to understand who benefits. Does the purchase price of the item goes back to the artist, vendor or community rather than the company who owns a  chain store? Indigenous businesses usually make that information clear, said Carol Anne Hilton, CEO of the Indigenous economic advisory group Indigenomics Institute.

Support verified groups

Look for Indigenous vendors that pledge to donate the proceeds from sales of orange T-shirts to groups that raise awareness about the residential school survivors such as the Orange Shirt Society — which also lists official retailers on its website — or Indian Residential School Survivors' Society.  

Take an extra step to research

A simple internet search or stopping to ask the right questions can help you spot a counterfeit item passing for Indigenous art. While most Indigenous products, including orange T-shirts, come with a label, customers should feel encouraged to ask the business owners about the products, sourcing of materials and traditions involved in making the item.  

Find online businesses

Growing online marketplaces for Indigenous art and products are helping connect rural vendors with urban markets. Spend some more time checking the sites offering authentic Indigenous work and T-shirts, and don't forget to ask questions about where it is coming from and where the dollar is going. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.