National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated throughout Canada on June 21. It’s a day to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. For the adoption community, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on how adoption has been used to harm Indigenous people, and to get involved in making things better for Indigenous kids, their families, and their communities.
What is National Indigenous Peoples Day?
June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples.
Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day, now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day. For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.
What led to the creation of National Aboriginal Day?
National Aboriginal Day was announced in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. This was the result of consultations and statements of support for such a day made 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.
Also in 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day
On June 21, 2017, the Prime Minister issued a statement announcing the intention to rename this day National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The Government of Canada provides resources, ideas for events, and funding opportunities for community celebratory events (see www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/funding/celebrate-canada.html).
How to celebrate
Integrate both traditional and contemporary Indigenous, also known as Aboriginal, activities into your National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration. Consult your local Friendship Centre for guidance.
Activities could include:
- opening and closing prayers
- presentation on Indigenous culture
- activities about traditional lifestyles
- celebration of the summer solstice
- community feast
- traditional dancers—First Nations, Inuit, and Métis
- traditional games, such as lacrosse
- arts and crafts display or workshop
Activities for schools and youth:
- invite an Indigenous guest speaker, such as an Elder, to speak on local history and contemporary issues
- plan a community activity with a partner (partners could be an on-reserve school or school district)
- Indigenous language workshop
- prepare a display of items such as treaties, art, and books
- invite Indigenous dancers and singers to perform
- an essay and artwork contest
- a quiz on Indigenous history/culture
- field trips to local Indigenous sites
- student exchanges
- pen pal club with an Indigenous school
- learn about Indigenous heroes/heroines and their contributions to Canada
- host a bannock-baking contest and/or learn about Indigenous food preparation
Community events for Indigenous and non-Indigenous
- organize a community breakfast, barbeque, or bake fair
- organize cultural awareness workshops, which could include a demonstration of constructing a traditional dwelling, workshops on medicinal plants, or Indigenous food-making demonstrations
- create a recipe book of local Indigenous dishes
- trace the community’s roots
- present/demonstrate hunting, fishing, and gathering techniques
- organize a concert headlining Indigenous performers
- invite an Indspire Award recipient or nominee to participate in various events
- ask a local Indigenous organization to host an open house with various partners
- present films and plays produced by Indigenous peoples (both traditional and contemporary)
- organize a walk on a historical trail
- invite local officials and representatives from the local communities
- organize a panel discussion on Indigenous issues and culture
- create a time capsule
Special displays of books, art, treaties, etc. could take place in libraries, museums, city halls, schools, and other public places.
- honour Indigenous veterans
- partner with parks or your municipality to host an event at a site/museum
- recreate historical events at a traditional Indigenous gathering site
- host a travelling museum
- hold meetings with mayor/city councils and Chief/band councils to share best practices
- hold a city council meeting in a Friendship Centre
- invite institutions that promote Indigenous Studies to participate in National Indigenous Peoples Day activities