Canada’s National Aboriginal Day is annually held on June 21 to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of the nation’s Aboriginal peoples. There are three Aboriginal groups in Canada – the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
What do people do?
Canada’s National Aboriginal Day gives many people the chance to learn more about Aboriginal people and their contributions towards the country’s development and progress. First Nations, Métis and Inuit people have the opportunity to showcase their cultures and achievements throughout Canada on this day.
National Aboriginal Day events are held in every region across Canada. Activities and events include (but are not limited to):
- Summer solstice festivals.
- Barbecue fundraisers.
- Social networking gatherings with traditional and contemporary music, dance and singing.
- Sacred fire extinguishing ceremonies.
- Traditional feasts, which may include fry bread and moose stew.
- The cutting of a cake to honor National Aboriginal Day.
National Aboriginal Day in Canada gives people of all walks of life the opportunity to celebrate and share knowledge about the Aboriginal peoples’ values, customs, languages, and culture.
National Aboriginal Day is a paid holiday for employees in the Northwest Territories, except those in the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA). It is not a statutory holiday in other parts of Canada. Traffic and parking conditions may be affected in areas where there are large celebrations to commemorate the day.
The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal peoples: Indians (First Nations), Inuit and Métis. Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
Many people have pushed for a national day to recognize and celebrate Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and cultures prior to 1996. For example, in 1982 the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. In 1995 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended for a National First Peoples Day to be designated. The Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Aboriginal peoples.
Canada’s governor general proclaimed the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996. In cooperation with Aboriginal organizations, the Canadian government chose June 21 for National Aboriginal Day because it was on or near the June solstice. Many of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day for many generations. National Aboriginal Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the unique achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in fields as diverse as agriculture, the environment, business and the arts.
Note: Any mention of summer in this article refers to summer in the northern hemisphere. Moreover, Timeanddate.com wishes to thank Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for the background information regarding National Aboriginal Day.