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June 21 is National Indigenous People’s Day. This day is an annual reminder for people across Canada to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations people, Inuit and Métis. But is there more?

What is National Indigenous Peoples Day? – by Larissa Crawford Métis-Jamaican

The date of June 21 was chosen to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day because it corresponds to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time of year that many Indigenous groups have traditionally celebrated their culture and heritage. In 1996, the Governor General of Canada proclaimed that the federal government would recognize National Aboriginal Day on this date. In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the symbolic renaming to “National Indigenous Peoples Day,” coinciding with the preferred term to refer to the original inhabitants of what we now know as Canada.

Most often, a generic explanation of National Indigenous Peoples Day will define it as being a day for all Canadians to celebrate the cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and their contributions to Canada. This only reflects half of its purpose, the other being to recognize Canada’s colonial history, the contemporary issues and realities of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous futurism.

It is important to celebrate  the rich and diverse cultures of Indigenous Peoples. What many Canadians do not realize is that there are many Indigenous nations in Canada: there is no one “Indigenous perspective” or universal belief, style of art or dance. National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the unique Indigenous Peoples in the community and region.

To choose only to recognize certain aspects and contributions of Indigenous Peoples as worth celebrating can do more harm than good. If colonial legacies are ignored and individuals only choose to recognize the beautiful artwork or ceremony of Indigenous Peoples then not only is the harsh historical and contemporary realities of Indigenous Peoples erased, but there is also a failure recognize the resiliency and strength it took to keep these cultures and these people alive (which only makes everything worth celebrating all that more impressive and inspiring).

National Indigenous Peoples Day offers everyone an opportunity to deepen their understanding and awareness of the unique adversities that Indigenous Peoples face and have overcome. With a flood of efforts to indigenize and improve relations with Indigenous Peoples after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, culturally appropriate resources and information are readily accessible (and comprehensive) for all Canadians.

• Know whose land you are on. If you are non-Indigenous, you are occupying land that is being colonized. To have a greater understanding of the land’s original caregivers and history, visit Whose Land, an educational tool and interactive map. It is useful for understanding Indigenous treaties and communities across Canada. The website offers videos of appropriate land acknowledgments.

 Understand what allyship to Indigenous people can look like. An outline of allyship and responsibilities by scholar Dr. Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe which can be found in the Ally Bill of Responsibilities (a PDF file that is available for download). This is important to review if one is concerned about practicing allyship appropriately.

• Understand that it is not the job of Indigenous People to teach you. Métis-Irish author, Melanie Lefebrve, wrote, “If you don’t have time to educate yourself, then I can’t help you,” in “It’s Not My Job to Teach You about Indigenous People” published in The Walrus. Individuals should not expect that all Indigenous people are experts on all things Indigenous, or that they have the time and energy to teach.

• Support Indigenous businesses and services. There are many Indigenous businesses and services across Winnipeg and Manitoba that would benefit from non-Indigenous customers. Visit the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce to see the member directory, or Creative Manitoba’s Indigenous Owned and Operated Business page. Keep in mind there are new businesses and ventures being developed daily.

• Know the protocol. Take the time before going to powwows or a ceremony to understand the protocol, whether that be by researching or kindly asking a volunteer or worker once you’ve arrived. Read A Guide to Taking Your Family to a Powwow for the First Time (available on CBC) for some powwow protocol.

We encourage you to participate in activities in your community to learn more about the richness and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultural expressions and stories. Today you can join any of the below listed events:

• Wa-Say Healing Centre Presents: Indigenous Day at The Forks
@ The Forks | 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

• Indigenous Peoples Day at the North End Women’s Centre
@ 394 Selkirk Avenue | 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

• MMF – National Indigenous Peoples Day
@ Selkirk Park | 9:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• National Indigenous Peoples Day @ WAG-Qaumajuq
@ 300 Memorial Blvd | 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

• Indigenous Music Celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day at The Cube
@ 124 King St | 12:00 p.m.,article/8496/indigenous-music

• Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (U of M) National Indigenous Peoples Day
@ Mashkiki Gitigaan – Medicine Garden | 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

• National Indigenous Peoples Day Brandon
@ Riverbank Discovery Centre | 12:00 p.m.

• WRHA Indigenous Health CEO Grand Rounds
Virtual Event | 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

If you can’t attend any of the events in person here is a listing of podcasts, documentaries and videos you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

• Clan Mothers Healing Village Land-Based Healing Video Series – Journey of Piyesis
Available for free on Vimeo.
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4

• Beans (2021)
Available on Crave and other platforms for rent.

• CBC: 12 documentaries on Indigenous life in Canada
Available for free on CBC Gem.

• Gord Downie’s The Secret Path
Available for free on YouTube.

• CBC Podcasts: Missing and Murdered | Kuper Island | Unreserved with Rosanna Deerchild
Available for free on CBC Listen.

• Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance
Available for free on YouTube and on the National Film Board of Canada’s website.

Enjoy the day of reflection, celebration and community


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