Days of Significance

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Explore this non-exhaustive list to learn more about days of significance among Indigenous communities and the Office of Indigenous Relations

For a more comprehensive list of significant dates, view the centralized campus resource on religious, cultural, and spiritual days of observance. 

As you review this list, if you know of other Indigenous days of significance, please contact us by email: indigenousinitiatives@uwaterloo.ca

2021 Indigenous Days of Significance

  1. 2021
    1. Jan
      1. Indigenous Initiatives Anniversary - January 13

        Jean Becker joined the University of Waterloo on January 13, 2020, as Senior Director, Indigenous Initiatives reporting to the President, and Associate Vice-President, Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion. This date marks the establishment of the Indigenous Initiatives Office at Waterloo.

    2. Feb
      1. International Mother Language Day - February 21

        International Mother Language Day is observed on February 21st to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. This day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999. The UN General Assembly then welcomed the proclamation of the day in its resolution of 2002.

        Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind.

        International Mother Language Day is a non-statutory holiday.

        Learn more about International Mother Language Day

         

    3. May
      1. National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ Peoples (MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+) - May 5

        May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ Peoples (MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+). This day is also known as Red Dress Day with respect to Jaime Black’s REDress art installation which helped inspire the red dress movement. On May 5th, many people across North America hang red dresses in private and public spaces to remember those who are missing and murdered.

        Learn more about MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+ by reading the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Final Report.

        National Day of Awareness for MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+ is a non-statutory holiday.

        Learn more about the REDress art installation

         

    4. Jun
      1. National Indigenous History Month

        In 2009, June was declared National Indigenous History Month in Canada. During this month, we celebrate and honour the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada. This month is also a time for all Canadians to learn about, appreciate and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples of Canada’s immense contributions, both past and present.

        2021 was the first year that the University of Waterloo officially participated in National Indigenous History Month. Throughout this month, the Indigenous Initiatives Office organizes events, activities and resources to assist members of the Waterloo community in their learning journeys and in taking action to ensure we are all advancing the Calls to Action within our own spaces

        Learn more about National Indigenous History Month

         

      2. National Indigenous People's Day - June 21

        On June 21st, we pay special attention to National Indigenous People’s Day, a day for all Canadians to honour and celebrate the legacy, diverse cultures and exceptional contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Although these groups share many similarities, it is important to acknowledge that they each have their own unique heritage, language, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. National Indigenous Peoples Day was formerly known as National Aboriginal Day when it was established in 1996 through a proclamation signed by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc.

        In collaboration with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21st, the summer solstice, for National Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of its cultural, historical, and spiritual significance.

        While this day is recognized as a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, it is not yet a statutory holiday in the rest of Canada.

        Learn more about National Indigenous People's Day

    5. Jul
      1. Huron Tract Treaty of 1827 Anniversary – July 10

        Treaty 29, or the Huron Tract Purchase, was signed on July 10th, 1827, by representatives of the Crown and certain Anishinaabe peoples. The territory described in the written treaty covers approximately 2,200,000 acres. Treaties often reference natural features of the landscape to mark boundaries. This treaty uses the intersection of the St. Clair River and “a hickory tree marked with a broad arrow on two sides” to mark part of its boundary. Current communities in the area include Sarnia and Stratford.

        Learn more about the Huron Tract Purchase

    6. Aug
      1. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – August 9

        August 9th is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day is celebrated around the world and marks the date of the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982. Indigenous Peoples are holders of a vast diversity of unique cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems. There are over 476 million Indigenous Peoples living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population.

        More than 70 per cent of the world’s population is living in countries with rising income and wealth inequality, including Indigenous Peoples who already face high rates of poverty and acute socio-economic disadvantages. High levels of inequality are generally associated with institutional instability, corruption, financial crises, increased crime and lack of access to justice, education and health services. For Indigenous Peoples, poverty and gross inequities tend to generate intense social tensions and conflicts.

        International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a non-statutory holiday.

        Learn more about International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

    7. Sep
      1. Powley Day (Ontario) – September 19

        On September 19th, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and Métis communities across the country mark Powley Day to remember the recognition of Métis rights in the R. v. Powley case. While other Métis rights cases had been fought in the courts before, Powley was the first to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision on September 19th, 2003, the Supreme Court finally affirmed what the Métis people have been saying for over twenty years – section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, is a substantive promise to the Métis which recognizes their distinct existence and protects their existing Aboriginal rights.  

        Powley Day is a non-statutory holiday.

        Learn more about Powley Day

      2. Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC) Pow Wow – Last Saturday in September

        Every year in the fall, the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre hosts a Pow Wow.

        “A Pow Wow is a coming together of the first peoples to celebrate and honour our traditional teachings. We celebrate drumming, dancing and other elements of Indigenous culture, and we invite everyone to join us. Craft and food vendors are on-site, and we often have different stations where visitors can go to learn about different aspects of Indigenous culture.”

        Learn more about WISC's annual Pow Wow

      3. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – September 30

        As of June 2021, September 30th is now officially recognized as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This day is a federal statutory holiday, which allows employees in the federal public service to observe and participate in this important day. This holiday also addresses one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

        National Day of Truth and Reconciliation coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a day on which people create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools and promote the concept of Every Child Matters.

        Learn more about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

      4. Orange Shirt Day (National) - September 30

        September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, a day that recognizes the harm Canada’s residential school system inflicted on Indigenous children and their families, and the ongoing trauma that remains today. It is a day to remember and honour the life of every child. The goal of Orange Shirt Day is to create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools through Orange Shirt Day activities, and to promote the concept of Every Child Matters.

        The Orange Shirt Society was formed in Williams Lake, British Columbia to encourage and support communities to recognize Orange Shirt Day and to support reconciliation events and activities.

        Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s experience at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in the 1970s. The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that was given to Webstad by her grandmother for her first day of school. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt. It was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange has always reminded her of her experiences at residential school and, as she has said, “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

        As of June 2021, Orange Shirt Day now coincides with National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, which is a federal statutory holiday.

        Learn more about Orange Shirt Day at Waterloo

    8. Oct
      1. National Indigenous Peoples Day (United States) - Second Monday in October

        National Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States has risen to prominence as a replacement for Columbus Day. This day recognizes the native populations that were displaced and decimated after Christopher Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent.

        As of 2020, 14 states— Alabama, Alaska, Hawai'i, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia, more than 130 cities, and growing numbers of school districts celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day.

        Technically, Columbus Day is a federal holiday, which means it is recognized by the US government and thus brings the closure of non-essential government offices, and, usually, places like post offices and banks. However, states and local governments can choose not to observe a federal holiday. And, as is the case with a growing number of places, they can change the name and intent of the October holiday altogether

        Learn more about National Indigenous Peoples Day

      2. Haldimand Treaty of 1784 Anniversary – October 25

        On October 25, 1784, Sir Frederick Haldimand, the governor of Quebec, signed a decree that granted a tract of land to the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Six Nations Confederacy, in compensation for their alliance with British forces during the American Revolution. The Haldimand Tract is a strip of land that runs the length (and 10km on each side) of the Grand River from Lake Erie to its source, including lands in the Kitchener/Waterloo region.  

        The Haldimand Tract is central to ongoing land claims struggles. Throughout the late 1700s and 1800s, the Crown and Haudenosaunee disputed rights to the land title. Originally, 950,000 acres were set aside for the Haldimand Tract; today approximately 48,000 acres remain. Negotiations about the title to the Haldimand Tract still continue between the Canadian government and the Six Nations Confederacy. 

    9. Nov
      1. Treaties Recognition Week (Ontario) – First Week of November

        In 2016, Ontario passed legislation declaring the first week of November as Treaties Recognition Week.

        Increasing our knowledge on our collective treaty rights and obligations helps us nurture these important relationships. This is part of the Ontario government’s work to rebuild trust and relationships with Treaty partners and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. This includes educating Ontarians about the role Treaties play in our lives and relationships today. The Indigenous Education Office within The Ministry of Colleges and Universities supports post-secondary institutions in recognizing the importance this week.

        2020 was the first year that the University of Waterloo officially participated in Treaties Recognition Week (November 2-6, 2020). To contribute to the broader goals of education, reflection, and action, the Indigenous Initiatives Office hosts a series of virtual events and videos throughout this important week.

        Learn more about Treaties Recognition Week at Waterloo

      2. Inuit Day (International) – November 7

        Inuit Day is a celebration set up to acknowledge and celebrate Inuit culture and contributions, but most importantly to affirm the voices of Inuit across the circumpolar world. At the 2006 Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) General Assembly in Barrow, Alaska, November 7th was proclaimed as Inuit Day to honour the birth date of ICC founder Eben Hopson. Hopson was one of the Arctic’s greatest leaders who called on Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka to work together in order to defend Inuit Rights and to make certain no Inuit community is left behind as change and development increases in the Arctic. 

        Learn more about Inuit Day

      3. Indigenous Veterans Day (National) – November 8

        Every year on November 8th, we honour Indigenous Veterans Day by paying tribute to the important contributions and sacrifices made by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in service to Canada. Even before Canada was a country, Indigenous Peoples have fought to defend our country and our values. Where there has been conflict, where peace, security and safety have been threatened, Indigenous Peoples from across Canada have answered the call. On this day and throughout Veterans’ Week, we thank the thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis who have served and are serving.

        Learn more about Indigenous Veterans Day

      4. Louis Riel Day (Ontario) - November 16

        Louis Riel Day is a non-statutory* holiday that occurs on November 16th across the Métis homelands. This date is the anniversary of Riel’s execution in 1885. During that year, Riel led Métis people in the Northwest Resistance, which was a stand against the Government of Canada because it was encroaching on Métis rights and way of life. He was eventually put on trial where he was convicted of treason and executed. Although Louis Riel Day commemorates one of the greatest tragedies of Canadian history, it is also a day to celebrate Métis culture and the continuing progress that Métis people are making in fulfilling Riel’s dream of Métis taking their rightful place within Confederation.

        *In Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is a provincial statutory holiday that occurs on the third Monday of February.

        Learn more about Louis Riel Day