Today is the first day of summer; the Summer Solstice, and it is also National Aboriginal Day. It is a day where each Canadian should take time to learn, reflect and acknowledge the hardships, losses, triumphs and victories that the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada have experienced throughout centuries of colonization.
When I turned on the news this morning it showed a group of elementary school children at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site learning about Mi’kmaq culture and the petroglyphs at the site. It was refreshing the hear the children who were interviewed excited about the 3000 year old drawings they were able to see and the cultural experiences they had while at Keji. Experiences like these illustrate the purpose of National Aboriginal Day: to learn, understand and respect the deep Aboriginal history that lies within our lands.
The National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations, requested the creation of a National Aboriginal Day in 1982 and suggested it to be celebrated on June 21. National Aboriginal Day was once again proposed as a recommendation in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1995 as a holiday to recognize our nation’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis and was instated as a holiday in 1996 by Governer General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc.
National Aboriginal Day is now celebrated across the country on June 21 each year as it is a date that often coincides with the Summer Solstice. While Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal organizations observe National Aboriginal Day, it is only a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories. It is also within a series of National Holidays that celebrate the people of Canada:
June 21: National Aboriginal Day
June 24: Sainte-Jean-Baptiste Day
June 27: Canadian Multiculturalism Day
July 1: Canada Day
It is important to remember that this day is part of the ongoing efforts to reconcile the relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and Canada. National Aboriginal Day provides Aboriginal Peoples with a day to celebrate their cultures and practices and share them with others; cultures and practices that were once outlawed by the Canadian Government with the implementation of the Indian Act and other governmental policy.
Reflect. Learn. Educate.