June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day! This is a time for all Canadians – Indigenous, non-Indigenous, and newcomers – to reflect on and celebrate the history, heritage, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada.
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples share many similarities, but they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
June 21, the summer solstice, was chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day in cooperation with national Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada. The date was specifically chosen because many Indigenous peoples and communities celebrate their culture and heritage on or near this day – it is significant because of the summer solstice and because it’s the longest day of the year!
What led to the creation of National Indigenous Peoples Day?
In 1996, then-Governor General, Roméo LeBlanc, declared June 21 of each year as National Aboriginal Day. The proclamation was the result of consultations and statements of support by various Indigenous groups:
- In 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.
- In 1995, the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people chaired by Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
- In 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day.*
On June 21, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement announcing the intention to rename this day to National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Celebrate together – check out the events happening around Northern BC and beyond
- APTN Indigenous Day Live – Hosted by Earl Wood and Janelle Wookey and featuring performances from Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Tom Wilson, iskwē, Neon Dreams, Julian Taylor and Charlotte Cardin, the celebrations begin Sunday night and continue into Monday, June 21.
- Prince George Drum Circle – A drum circle is taking place at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. Hosted by the UHNBC Drum Group, the event is open to everyone. The UHNBC Drum Group has performed every Monday night throughout the pandemic to help lift the spirits of health care workers at the hospital. The event starts at 11 am and runs until 3 pm.
- 2021 Indigenous Voices Awards (IVA) Virtual Celebration – To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, IVA is hosting a virtual celebration featuring a livestream of readings and stories from the 2021 IVAs finalists. Hosted by Tenille Campbell, the event will also announce this year’s award recipients. The event begins at 5 pm on June 21.
- Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival – This free online event is hosted by the National Association of Friendship Centres. The festival helps all people in Canada recognize the enormous contributions that Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples have made to Canada.
- Honouring Wellness – This virtual workshop takes place on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The workshop is a guided exploration of Indigenous approaches to health and wellness from across the province.
Northern health observes moment of silence
In May, we learned of the tragic discovery at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of 215 children have been found buried at the site. On behalf of the Northern Health board, and staff and physicians, we offer sincere condolences to families and communities mourning the immeasurable loss of so many young lives.
We reaffirm our commitment to a future that is free of discrimination and racism in our facilities, province, and country. Northern Health continues to lower the flags at its facilities across the region to honour the lives of the 215 children; and today we invite you to pause and observe a moment of silence at 2:15 pm. For those wishing to reflect further throughout the day, we have prepared material that provides information about supporting educational and cultural resources.
We acknowledge the significant impact that the trauma experienced in residential schools continues to have on generations of survivors and their families. Northern Health remains committed to working with the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation BC, and Indigenous leaders across the North on meaningful change that honours diversity and provides culturally safe services.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools.
- A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
- The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll-free from anywhere in British Columbia. The KUU-US Crisis Line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-588-8717 or online.
- The Northern BC Crisis Line offers 24/7 support across the NH region, and can be reached at 1-888-562-1214.
*Government of Canada (2020). About National Indigenous Peoples Day. Accessed on June 16, 2021 online.