June 21 was National Indigenous Peoples Day! Across the country, Canadians virtually recognized and celebrated the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
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 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 – 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.
Due to the seriousness COVID-19, and concerns around physical distancing, many celebrations have moved online and are still available. Here are a few ways to virtually celebrate with friends and family:
- Celebrating Indigenous People in Canada: Learning and activity guide – this 35-page activity guide is packed with fun activities and learning opportunities for children of all ages.
- Dze L Kant Friendship Centre virtual celebration video available on YouTube.
- Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival.
- Explore Indigenous languages from Northern BC at First Voices.
- Read a book from the #IndigenousReads reading list – there are options for people of all ages!
- Watch a film from the Indigenous Cinema archives on the National Film Board of Canada with your family.
- Listen to music made by Indigenous recording artists.
There are many ways that your family or bubble can celebrate together while maintaining two metres distance. Indigenous Tourism BC has compiled a list of Indigenous museums, cultural sites, and restaurants across the province that are open for visitors. Remember to travel close to home, wash your hands frequently, and keep two metres distance from others at all times.
Share how you celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day 2020 by using the hashtag #NIPDC