Kelly Laycock, Publications Coordinator
“In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal 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.”
—Government of Canada website, About National Aboriginal Day
National Aboriginal Day falls on June 21 every year since 1996, when the Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, announced it through proclamation. According to the Government of Canada’s website, “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.”
It has become an opportunity for people across the country to celebrate the distinct heritage, cultural practices, spiritual beliefs and languages of Aboriginal peoples that form a part of our collective history in Canada.
National Aboriginal Day 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.
The date of June 21, the summer solstice and longest day of the year, was selected in cooperation with Indigenous organizations because of its significance for many Aboriginal communities.
In 2009, June was declared National Aboriginal History Month after the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to recognize the historic contributions and the strength of Indigenous communities across the country today.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website offers a page of learning resources for both children and adults, as well as a number of links to programs and initiatives they are supporting to advance reconciliation.
Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan has an excellent list of Indigenous informational resources:
Aboriginal Day Live 2017
Join the Gathering or Watch from Home
Be sure to catch Aboriginal Day Live, a live broadcast of free concerts and activities happening in eight Canadian cities hosted by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
It started in 2007 as a small concert series for Aboriginal artists, held in a park outside the network’s headquarters in Winnipeg. Since then, the gathering has evolved into a multi-city celebration and, according to their website, “features some of the biggest names in Aboriginal music and television, including JUNO Award winners and on-the-rise artitsts. It showcases talent from all genres, regians and nations, ensuring the recognition and inclusion of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.”
Victoria Park, Regina
The City of Regina, along with their partners, has developed a National Aboriginal Day (NAD) event that will take place in downtown Regina, Saskatchewan, on June 21, 2017. The festivities will include a main stage with Indigenous entertainment, Indigenous crafters/artisans, information booths and children’s activities.
Victoria Park, Saskatoon
The Office of the Treaty Commissioner asks you to join them for the 2nd Annual “Rock Your Roots” Walk for Reconciliation in Victoria Park, Saskatoon. The walk is part of many activities in the park, starting with a Pipe Ceremony at 7:30am.
This article was published in the 2017 Summer Issue of the Benchers’ Digest. Be sure to check it out for more great articles relating to National Aboriginal Day.