What is National Aboriginal Day?
June 21 is National Aboriginal Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous Peoples.
Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day. 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.
What led to the creation of National Aboriginal Day?
National Aboriginal Day was announced in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. National Aboriginal Day was the result of consultations and statements of support for such a day made by various Indigenous groups.
- in 1995, the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people chaired by Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Peoples
- also in 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day
- in 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
How does the Government of Canada support National Aboriginal Day?
National Aboriginal Day is part of the Celebrate Canada program, which also includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24), Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27) and Canada Day (July 1).
While all Government of Canada departments support National Aboriginal Day, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Canadian Heritage work together to promote it. INAC provides resources and ideas for events, while Canadian Heritage provides funding opportunities for community celebratory events.