Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day
June is National Indigenous History Month, and on June 21, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. Even though the end of the school year can get a little hectic, we should not skip celebrating important topics, especially ones that provide a great learning opportunity. 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 have laid the foundation for a day of recognition since 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.
One way to learn about Indigenous history and culture is to read books by Indigenous authors. The First Nations Education Steering Committee has an excellent list of authentic First Peoples 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, and the only challenge will be choosing between them!
As the school year winds down, it can also be a great time to take a field trip with your learners. Check out your local library or nearby museums – either may have events or exhibits that 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 and leaves you with a deeper understanding of Indigenous Peoples, their history and their contributions to society. Can’t make it to the museum? They also have teacher resources that can help bring the museum to you, such as virtual presentations, online modules, history boxes and virtual exhibits, and suggested activities.
If you are looking for lesson plans about Indigenous content aligned with the curriculum, try Lessons from the Earth and Beyond by Isaac Murdoch. These resources offer inquiry-based activities for different age ranges, including recordings in Anishinaabe!
Of course, the most impactful way to learn about Indigenous Peoples is to meet and connect with local Indigenous communities! If you’re not sure how to start, try reaching out to your local Friendship Centre. They should be able to point you in the right direction and help you navigate the appropriate cultural Protocols. You can invite an Elder or Knowledge Keeper to your classroom to share their knowledge through traditional stories, language teaching, crafts, or even a land-based activity.
You can also try getting involved in local events throughout the month, many of which may be happening on June 21 or National Indigenous Peoples Day.
National Indigenous Peoples Day
June 21 was chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day 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 the shortest night of the year and is a time associated with gathering. Indigenous communities observe this holiday across Canada and if you are in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, June 21 is considered an official holiday.
How can you celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day? Here are just a few suggestions:
- 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, but there are also virtual options from June 2 to June 21.
- Learn a few greetings in an Indigenous language. Try First Voices to 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.
Many celebrations across the country will undoubtedly mark this day, and getting involved in one of them is probably the best way to observe National Indigenous Peoples Day. Here are a few highlights of what is going on in each province and territory:
- If you are fortunate enough to be in the Yukon, there are artist demonstrations, ceremonies, concerts, traditional food offerings, and more.
- In Whistler, British Columbia, at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, there are weeklong celebrations of National Indigenous Peoples Day. June 21 marks the opening of the Ancient Wellness Exhibition, and there will also be performances, feasts, live canoe carving, an artist market and many other activities throughout the week.
- Celebrations will be taking place throughout the Northwest Territories. However, if you can make it to the land of the midnight sun, Inuvik has a few things planned, including drumming, traditional food, a 5K or 10 K run and sunlit skies in the middle of the night.
- Iqaluit, Nunavut, plans to honour the Inuit land we live on June 21. You can stay up-to-date using the city’s website.
- Calgary, Alberta, is hosting an Aboriginal Awareness Week from June 20-25, including 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 up to date 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, with a long list of Indigenous performers on the roster. APTN will also be broadcasting the event for those who cannot physically attend.
- Throughout Ontario, you can attend various events, 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 be taking 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.
- 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.
- Those of us in Newfoundland and Labrador can celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day by visiting the Beothuk Interpretation Centre. You can also search for what is happening in your region.
This list is far from complete; many celebrations are occurring from coast to coast to coast. If you are looking for something near you, check out events posted in your community, or try contacting 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!