Celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day
June is National Indigenous History Month, and on June 21, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. We know the end of the school year can get a little hectic. However, we should not skip celebrating important topics, especially ones that provide great learning opportunities. How can you make the most of these celebrations with your learners? Keep reading to learn more about resources, events, activities, and ideas to observe National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day.
National Indigenous History Month
National Indigenous History Month officially began with a unanimous motion in Canada’s House of Commons in 2009. However, Indigenous activists laid the foundation for a day of recognition in the 1980s. Each June, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ accomplishments and diverse histories across Turtle Island.
Learning about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is an essential part of reconciliation. All Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, should have the opportunity to learn about this history. Try getting involved in local events throughout the month. There will be many happening on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Resources for Learning About Indigenous Histories
One way to learn about Indigenous histories and cultures is to read books by Indigenous authors. The First Nations Education Steering Committee has an excellent list of resources for K-9 and 10-12 and adult learning. Each book on the list is annotated and identified by grade level and Nation. There are many excellent resources here. The only challenge will be choosing between them!
As the school year winds down, it can be a great time to take a field trip. Check out your local library or nearby museums. There may be events or exhibits you can visit. If you are in the Gatineau area, consider visiting the First Peoples Hall at the Canadian Museum of History. The exhibit features over 2,000 historical and contemporary objects. It leaves you with a deeper understanding of Indigenous Peoples and their histories and contributions to society. Can’t make it to the museum? They also have educator resources to help bring the museum to you! Resources include virtual presentations, online modules, history boxes, virtual exhibits, and suggested activities.
If you are looking for lesson plans with curriculum-aligned Indigenous content, try Lessons from the Earth and Beyond by Isaac Murdoch. These resources offer inquiry-based activities for different age ranges, including recordings in Anishinaabe!
Connect With Local Communities
Of course, the most impactful way to learn about Indigenous Peoples is to meet and connect with local Indigenous communities! If you’re unsure how to start, try contacting your local Friendship Centre. They should be able to point you in the right direction and help you navigate the appropriate Cultural Protocols. Invite an Elder or Knowledge Keeper to your classroom. Elders and Knowledge Keepers have valuable knowledge to share through traditional stories, language teaching, crafts, or land-based activities.
National Indigenous Peoples Day
National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 because it marks the beginning of the summer solstice. Indigenous Peoples worldwide have been celebrating the summer solstice for thousands of years. June 21 is the longest day and shortest night of the year. It is a time associated with gathering. Indigenous communities observe this holiday across Canada. If you are in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, June 21 is an official holiday.
How can you celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day?
- Watch a movie by an Indigenous director. Not sure where to look? Don’t worry. Rotten Tomatoes has a list for this. If you want to show a film to younger learners, try these suggestions from the National Film Board of Canada.
- Participate in the Education Days as part of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. If you are in the Ottawa region, you can participate in person from June 22 to June 24. There are also virtual options from June 2 to June 21.
- Learn a few greetings in an Indigenous language. First Voices can help you get started.
- Learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and make a plan for how you and your learners can personally address some of them.
Join a Local Celebration
Many celebrations across the country will mark this day. Getting involved is probably the best way to observe National Indigenous Peoples Day. Here are a few highlights of what is happening in each province and territory.
Suppose you are fortunate enough to be in the Yukon. In that case, there are artist demonstrations, ceremonies, concerts, traditional food offerings, and more.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, British Columbia, has a weeklong National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration. June 21 marks the opening of the Ancient Wellness Exhibition. There will also be performances, feasts, live canoe carving, an artist market, and many other activities.
Celebrations will be taking place throughout the Northwest Territories. Suppose you can make it to the land of the midnight sun. In that case, Inuvik has a few things planned, including drumming, traditional food, a 5K or 10K run, and sunlit skies in the middle of the night.
Iqaluit, Nunavut, plans to honour Inuit land on June 21. You can stay up-to-date on the city’s website.
Calgary, Alberta, is hosting an Aboriginal Awareness Week from June 20-25. It includes an Indigenous Showcase Variety Show, a hand games tournament, and a Powwow. Admission to most of the events is free, and everyone is welcome!
You can follow the Regina National Indigenous Peoples Day page on Facebook to stay updated about celebrations if you are in this area of Saskatchewan.
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) will host the first in-person celebrations since 2019 at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The event is free and open to the public. It includes a long list of Indigenous performers on the roster. APTN will also broadcast the event for those who cannot attend in person.
You can attend various events throughout Ontario, including the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in the Ottawa region or the Nogojiwanong Indigenous Fringe Festival in Peterborough.
At Place Jean-Béliveau in Quebec City, Quebec, you can attend KWE! Meet with Indigenous Peoples. This free event celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, traditions, and contemporary lives.
The Sitansisk Pow Wow will take place in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Join the two-day event and listen as the Wolastoqiyik People share their culture through music, dance, and traditional ceremonies.
Prince Edward Island
In Charlottetown, PEI, you can expect a celebration at Confederation Landing hosted by the Native Council. There will be a free BBQ, cultural events, guest speakers, youth games, and more!
Juno award-winning DJ SHUB, the Godfather of Pow Wow Step, will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, offering a free concert to bring in the summer solstice.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Those of us in Newfoundland and Labrador can celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day by visiting the Beothuk Interpretation Centre. You can also search for events happening in your region.
This list is far from complete. Many celebrations occur from coast to coast. If you want something local, check out events posted in your community. Contact your local Friendship Centre to find out how you can participate in celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Do you know how you will celebrate National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day? Will you be observing with your learners, family, or both? We would love to hear from you!