June is National Indigenous History Month! This month is an important tribute, as well as a clear opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the past, present, and future of Indigenous peoples: their history, sacrifices, struggles, contributions, culture, and strength.
Review a brief history of National Indigenous History Month at the bottom of this page.
National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, is a day for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse customs, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. These are the three groups recognized by the Canadian Constitution as Indigenous peoples. Although they may share similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
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. This year, in Waterloo Region, you can start the day off celebrating at THEMUSEUM’s At First Light: Tsi Tewentahróhos event, where there will be a traditional Sunrise Ceremony, music, dancing, and more! Then, you can head over to the National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration taking place at St. Paul’s Ceremonial Fire Grounds; there will be singing, dancing, drumming, a hand drum circle, and a BBQ!
You can also stay connected to the Waterloo Indigenous student community throughout the year. Check out the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at St. Paul’s! They facilitate the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and provide culturally relevant information to all members of the UWaterloo community, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. You may have heard about the annual Pow Wow they host, their ever-popular Soup and Bannock Days, or perhaps their tutoring services for Indigenous students. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
The Indigenous Students’ Association is an active group on campus as well, and you can find them at Clubs and Societies Days in the fall. Additionally, if you’re interested in learning more about Indigenous peoples, history, and culture, UWaterloo offers Indigenous Studies courses.
Whether it’s through academic courses or other campus and community resources, it’s important to educate oneself. Within and beyond the walls of UWaterloo, remember to listen to the Indigenous peoples and communities around you, not simply during one day or month of the year.
1982: The National Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of a National Aboriginal Solidarity Day on June 21.
1990: The Quebec legislature recognized June 21 as a day to celebrate Indigenous peoples’ culture.
1995: The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that a day be designated as National First Peoples Day. The Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples chaired by the late Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
1996: Governor General Romeo LeBlanc proclaimed that National Aboriginal Peoples Day would be celebrated on June 21 each year.
2008: Prime Minister Harper offered an apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system.
2009: By unanimous motion in Canada’s House of Commons, the month of June was declared National Aboriginal History Month.
2017: Prime Minister Trudeau issued a statement announcing the intention to rename June 21 National Indigenous Peoples Day.
- Government of Canada: Indigenous commemorative and awareness days
- Government of Canada: National Indigenous History Month
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Indigenous peoples and communities
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools
- Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada: Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on National Aboriginal Day
- Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan: National Indigenous History Month