(June 20.2015) National Aboriginal Week is underway this weekend as many local, regional and provincial organizations, agencies and communities join Canadians from coast to coast to celebrate Aboriginal culture, tradition and to reflect upon and remember the important role that Indigenous Canadians have played in Canada’s history. Initiated in 1996 by then-Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, Aboriginal Day falls on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time when Aboriginal peoples traditionally gathered to share, trade, celebrate and reunite with loved ones. When the day was introduced, the message was clear that “all Canadians are encouraged to participate” in the many festivities, and to “celebrate the values, traditions and cultures” of Canada’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples and their very important contributions to the nation.
National Aboriginal Day, also known as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day, is a day to recognize the contributions of First Nations and for all Canadians to commit to reconciliation and closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians.
“National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity for First Nations and Canadians to join together and celebrate First Nations peoples, languages and cultures,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Bellegarde. “Just two weeks ago Canadians had their eyes opened by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. We ask all Canadians to open their minds and hearts as well and consider their role in reconciliation and the work we need to do together to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians.”
National Aboriginal Day will be marked with feasts, festivals, concerts, cultural gatherings and ceremonies across Canada. The National Chief encourages everyone to participate in events and for non-Indigenous Canadians to use this as an opportunity to learn more about First Nations peoples and issues.
“We have a shared history and a shared responsibility to our shared future,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Our original relationship is based on peaceful coexistence and mutual respect – to jointly benefit from sharing the land and resource wealth of this great country. Those values should guide the way forward. On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and the National Executive, I want to wish everyone a festive and celebratory National Aboriginal Day.”
National Aboriginal Day is a time for all Canadians to celebrate the beauty of Aboriginal cultures and their many contributions. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF)’s recent survey on Views of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, conducted by Leger Marketing, indicates that almost half of all Canadians are concerned about relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. The survey also showed that those reporting greater contact with Aboriginal peoples are more likely to have more positive views of Aboriginal peoples.
“This is a particularly poignant time with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s closing events in Ottawa, May 31-June 3, 2015. The CRRF recognizes the significant contribution of the Commission’s work to our collective future based on respect and inclusion,” said CRRF Executive Director, Anita Bromberg from Ottawa earlier this month.
Show your support by attending a National Aboriginal Day in your area.
Aboriginal Canadians are the main organizers when it comes to developing and hosting NAD events, but government support and mainstream society’s willingness to get aboard the celebration train to honour and remember the deeds and achievements of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, has done much to enhance the popularity of the holiday.
Last year more than a million and a half Canadians attended or participated in over 1200 National Aboriginal Day events that were held across the country. Figures indicate that the numbers of people attending the events has been rising steadily over the years. And that’s good news for festivity organizers who utilize the special day not just to introduce and teach the general public about Native lifestyle and culture, but also to celebrate such things as community and individual achievement, economic development initiatives, academic achievement at the end of another school year, historical site restorations, new creations, saluting community Elders, remembering war veterans, and more.