On This Day: National Indigenous Peoples Day of Canada is First Celebrated

On This Day: National Indigenous Peoples Day of Canada is First Celebrated

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On June 21, 1996, the former governor general of Canada Roméo LeBlanc declared the first National Aboriginal Day.

Through the proclamation, LeBlanc marked the day as an opportunity to celebrate the diverse culture, valuable contributions and heritage of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 

Previously in 1982, the Assembly of First Nations first suggested establishing “National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.” In 1990, Quebec became the first province to recognize June 21 as a day to celebrate Indigenous culture. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially changed the name to National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017. 

He changed the name to be consistent with the values and partnership Canada has with the Indigenous community.

“We’ve heard from [you] and the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and from many Indigenous communities over the past year that there is a deep pain in knowing that… building carries a name so closely associated with the horror of residential schools,” Trudeau said.

“Every year, we join together on this day to recognize the fundamental contributions that First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation have made to the identity and culture of all Canadians. The history, art, traditions and cultures of Indigenous Peoples have shaped our past and continue to shape who we are today.” 

See also: On This Day: Ethel Blondin-Andrew Elected as the First Indigenous Woman to the House of Commons

The Summer Solstice

The summer solstice on June 21 holds a spiritual significance for Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. 

For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples have celebrated on the longest day of the year when the sun travels its longest path with daylight and marks the first day of summer. Ceremonies, feasts and traditional practices are usually celebrated on this day.

The Great Festival of Light in Indigenous culture is a story that tells the importance of the summer celebration. It was the beginning of summer and the reawakening of everything that is beautiful in nature. With the snow gone, the animals in the forest celebrated the longest day of the year, but they questioned why humans were celebrating as well. Anouk, who descended from a long line of sled dogs explained to the other animals that just like them, humans are all different. Their customs, traditions and languages are different, so they’ll also celebrate their differences while thanking Mother Earth for bringing forth living creatures. 

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How Canada Celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

Across Canada, National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated with ceremonies and events across Canada. Starting on June 21, ceremonies will take place in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Burnaby and Vancouver to kick off celebrations. 

Canadians are encouraged to participate in community activities to learn more about the Indigenous culture, history and heritage.