Long before June 21st was National Indigenous Peoples Day, the day already held significance for the people of Turtle Island.
Why June 21st?
Indigenous peoples have celebrated the beginning of summer — arrival of warm weather and long hours of light — for generations. It is a day with spiritual and cultural significance. “It symbolizes a new season of life, a chance to start fresh and leave past burdens behind.” (MLT Aikins, 2022).
In Canada, it has been proclaimed as a day to celebrate the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples since 1996. (CIRNAC, 2018). It is a day to elevate Indigenous voices and amplify their cultures, traditions, talents, and knowledge. You can take part in this celebration by connecting with your local Indigenous community and joining in on their many activities, ceremonies, and celebrations. It is important to celebrate as well as deepen our knowledge of Indigenous cultures as part of our personal journey to decolonization.
It is important to listen to and amplify Indigenous voices, and National Indigenous Peoples Day is a perfect time to question how we have contributed to this and how we can do better. Many false narratives of the peoples of Turtle Island have contributed to the dismissal and attempt of erasure off of their land. (CUPW, 2023). Indigenous peoples have long known about their traditions and heritage through oral history; this is why it is so important to engage with your community and listen directly from Indigenous voices.
In the spirit of summer solstice — a new season of life, new beginnings, and a fresh start — engage with your local Indigenous community, deepen your knowledge of their cultures and traditions, and elevate their voices.