June 21, 2022 is National Indigenous Peoples Day!* This is a time for everyone in Canada – Indigenous, non-Indigenous, and newcomers – to reflect on and celebrate the history, heritage, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across the country.
While First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples may share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
June 21 was chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day in cooperation with national Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada. The date was specifically selected because many Indigenous peoples celebrate their culture and heritage on or near this day. The day is also significant because it’s the summer solstice (the longest day of the year).
What’s the history of National Indigenous Peoples Day?
In 1996, Roméo LeBlanc, who was Canada’s Governor General at the time, 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.
The term “Indigenous” was chosen by Indigenous leaders in the 1970s to identify, unite, and represent diverse communities in global political arenas. It’s a relational word that highlights a people’s connection to traditional territories, as well as their experiences of colonization.
In contrast, the term “Aboriginal” was introduced in the 1982 Canadian Constitution by the Federal Government as an umbrella term to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Some people dislike the word for this reason, and because the prefix “ab” is Latin for “away from” or “not” – meaning that ironically, it can be interpreted to mean “not original.” Some people may prefer to use “Aboriginal,” however, because it is defined and protected within the Constitution.
You can learn more about these terms on Northern Health’s Indigenous Health website.
What can you do to celebrate and honour National Indigenous Peoples Day?
- Identify and acknowledge the Indigenous territory you live on:
- Attend a celebration hosted by an Indigenous organization that honors Indigenous people and cultures
Some celebrations in the Northern Health region:
- June 21: Visit Spirit Square at Radley Beach for a fun day of activities.
- June 21: Join the McLeod Lake Indian Band from 10 am to 3 pm for food, music, drumming, singing, a health fair, and competitions.
- June 21: Visit Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park from 11 am to 7 pm for a full schedule of performances and activities.
- June 21: The Quesnel celebrations take place 9 am to 3 pm at the Helen Dixon Centre / Aboriginal Education Centre, 241 Kinchant St. Attendees can enjoy cake-cutting, Grade 12 Indigenous graduation awards, and a Ribbon Skirt Ceremony.
- June 21: Hosted by Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) from 11 am to 4 pm with events taking place at the CSFS Youth Centre, and at the ball diamonds by the skate park.
Fort St. John
- June 21: Join the Treaty 8 Tribal Association at 11504-105 Ave, across the street from Margaret Ma Murray Community School, from 12 pm to 8 pm to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
- June 21: The Doig River First Nation will be holding a celebration at 11 am for the in-town Urban Reserve for the Dene-Zaa people. This celebration will be held across the street from Margaret Ma Murray School, where the Gat Tah Kwą̂ reserve will be located.
- June 21: The Fort Nelson First Nation is hosting celebrations from 9 am to 8 pm. Activities include a drum dance, cultural activities, and more.
- June 20 & 22: Traditional dancers to perform at the Rotary Manor on June 20 at 2 pm, and then on June 22 at 2:30 pm on the front lawn of the Dawson Creek District Hospital.
- June 21: Prince Rupert Rotary Park Waterfront from 12 pm to 8 pm. Activities include cultural dancers, traditional foods, family activities, and musical guest Chelsie Young from the Bigstone River Cree Nation.
- June 21: Gitaus Administration Parking Lot and NIFCSS Lighthouse from 10 am to 2 pm. Guest dancers and singers, cedar-weaving artist Stella Wright, bouncy castles, barbeque luncheon, and give-away items and door prizes.
- June 21: Dze L K’ant Hall from 10 am to 2 pm. Enjoy vendors, drummers, entertainment, and a barbeque.
- June 21: Jamie Baxter Park from 12 pm to 3 pm. Enjoy arts and crafts, children’s activities, a barbeque, and entertainment.
- Expand your knowledge
Some resources from the Government of Canada:
- Learn about First Nations across Canada
- Learn about Inuit across Canada
- Learn about Métis across Canada
- Additional resources about Indigenous Peoples
To all of you from Northern Health, happy National Indigenous Peoples Day!
*The introductory paragraphs of this story are based on the Government of Canada webpage About National Indigenous Peoples Day (accessed on June 16, 2021).