Sharing & Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day
June 21 – the summer solstice – is many things to many people. It’s also National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day recognizing and celebrating the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“A decade ago, celebrations on Indigenous Peoples Day were largely relegated to Indigenous communities or diversity initiatives,” says Kelly Anne Butler, Aboriginal Affairs Officer and Adjunct Professor at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus. “Over the past 10 years, though, there has been a shift toward mainstream interest and a broader platform for celebration. This has occurred alongside the growth of organizations such as the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, which increases visibility across various media.”
Increased mainstream interest isn’t the only change. In 1945, it was dubbed “Indian Day.” Later, it became “National Aboriginal Day.” In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement pledging to rename the event “National Indigenous Peoples Day,” citing the terminology used in the landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is a day set aside each year to acknowledge the profound contributions of Indigenous Peoples to where we are today in Canada and to celebrate and learn from the diverse cultures and histories of Indigenous Peoples,” says Butler. “In some ways, the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day acts as a small part of a corrective to mainstream histories that so often disregard or misrepresent Indigenous Peoples.”
Butler says it’s important that we not rely exclusively on stand-alone events like Indigenous Peoples Day as evidence of our ability as a country to engage in true reconciliation. “But days like this are important in the sharing and celebratory elements for communities as well as in the exposure and educational aspects that come out of the associated media exposure,” says Butler. “Anything that helps to move along the dialogue, which I believe Indigenous Peoples Day does, is beneficial to all.”