National Indigenous People’s Day

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Aboriginal Day has come and gone and, for the most part, Canadians have gone about their lives, as usual, without noticing. In this time of reconciliation, it could be time for the federal government to recognize June 21 as a national holiday. But who am I to say?

Maybe it’s just happenstance that our day overlaps with a number of provincial and federal holidays. Or maybe it was a compromise – a series of conversations that ended in “Let’s just give them a day” instead of a holiday.

Nevertheless, the appropriately re-named National Indigenous Peoples Day was a national event that, if only for a moment, brought the unique and diverse cultures of Canada’s First Peoples to the forefront.

Here are a few photos from celebrations organized across the country, snapshots of the beauty and timeless traditions that make us who we are.

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Edith Cloutier, executive director of Native Friendship Centre, was pleased with the celebrations that occurred in Val-d’Or this year:

Aboriginal Day in Val-d’Or was an exceptional opportunity to launch Kijate, the construction project of the long-awaited social housing for Indigenous families. It was an historical moment for the community since Kijate is the first Aboriginal initiative funded under the AccèsLogis Québec program of the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ). In December, 24 families will benefit from better housing and an improved quality of life for their children.

Aboriginal Day in Val-d’Or was also marked by the official opening of Kinawit, the cultural and tourism site located 10 km from downtown Val-d’Or. Kinawit is located on the traditional land of the Anishinaabe people, in natural surrounding by Lac Lemoine, an ideal site for gatherings and traditional activities.

These celebrations were great opportunities for sharing and constructive exchanges between the Natives and non-Natives of Val-d’Or. This year Aboriginal Day was a step on the path of reconciliation.

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Actor Britney LeBorgne (Mohawk Girls), who hosted Montreal’s section of APTN’s Aboriginal Day Live, spoke with the Nation following her duties.

I was honoured to be part of the largest celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day. But it’s been a declared day since 1996, but I don’t ever remember hearing about it until a few years ago. It’s so great that we have this day but I feel like it should be equivalent to Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day or Canada Day and recognized as a national holiday. It should be just as important.

The event was sparsely attended before we went live, but after we did people started showing up. People were coming in out off the street and participating. It was an event that united people.

I’m a positive person and see Canada 150 as an opportunity to look at where we are, where we need to be and lets take this opportunity to start educating people to get where we want to be. Seeing everyone there from all backgrounds was really heartening for me.

I’m from Kahnawake and whenever I do something public, I’m always trying to represent my community so I just wanted to go out there and do my people proud.

I would like to see more non-Indigenous people go out there and educate themselves about the Indigenous people of Canada. People always use a blanket term to refer to Indigenous people and they don’t realize the diversity that exists within the Indigenous community. So my reconciliation tip would be to seek out that information because our education system, unfortunately hasn’t caught up with reality.

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Respect it

by Will Nicholls

June 21 is the longest day of the year, but it’s only been in recent years that we have started to celebrate it. It wasn’t until I moved to Montreal that I participated in National Aboriginal Day. I found it cool. One day a year we, along with our non-Native friends, got to march and hold signs pointing to our concerns. A small moment in the sun to reach out. It was a start.

Today it is still the one day a year to honour the First Nations and Inuit by all Canadians. But what is different is the amount of participation and respect from most of the Rest of Canada.

Still it is a time to remember who we are and what we are. How precious it is to embrace our culture and ways of life. This would have been unthinkable not so many decades ago, let alone 150 years ago.

Yes, just the acceptance and approval of the myriad of peoples in Canada is something relatively new. In the past, we were not allowed to practice certain traditional activities. There were residential schools and the horrors of being wards of the state.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a public recognition of the fact we exist and will not be forgotten. That is why you see so many smiling faces and they aren’t only on the faces of Indigenous Peoples.

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