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National Indigenous History Month in Canada

Colourful illustration with depictions of the First Nations peoples, the Inuit peoples and the Métis peoples

National Indigenous History Month is celebrated every year in June in Canada, and is a time to recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across the country.

This year, we celebrate the 26th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month.

National Indigenous History Month invites Indigenous peoples to celebrate their history in the spirit of pride and preservation. And for non-Indigenous Canadians, this is an opportunity to learn and show recognition of the role Indigenous communities have played and continue to play in shaping Canada.

While the whole month of June is dedicated to National Indigenous History Month, we also celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 to recognize and honour the heritage, cultures and valuable contributions to society by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The Government of Canada designated June 21, the day of the summer solstice, for National Indigenous Peoples Day as many Indigenous communities and peoples celebrate their culture and heritage on or near this day. The summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, holds great significance for these communities as it represents a fresh start and new season filled with cultural celebrations.

Learning about the stories, history, traditions and experiences of Indigenous peoples and communities is one step towards reconciliation.

In Canada, three Indigenous peoples groups exist – the Inuit, First Nations and Métis, placing their total population at just under 1.7 million.

National Indigenous History Month was inaugurated as a result of consultations and statements of support by various Indigenous groups when conflict began stirring between communities.  

Tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in 1990 and 1995 due to the Oka Crisis and Ipperwash Crisis led to a rise in calls for a national day of recognition. The disputes involved reserve land being used by the federal government without permission. 

As a result of the disputes, in 1995, the Sacred Assembly, a national meeting of Indigenous and non-Indigenous spiritual leaders, encouraged the federal government to establish National First Peoples Day as a day of unity and acknowledgement. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also supported this movement and recommended establishing a national day of recognition in their report released in 1996.

On June 13, 1996, the then Governor General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc announced the government’s intention to have an annual national celebration of Indigenous peoples. Later that month, Canada officially celebrated its first National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.

Over a decade later, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in 2009 to make the month of June National Indigenous History Month.

Today, we encourage you to get involved and learn more about the traditions, cultures and experiences of Indigenous communities.

Here are some informative and cultural events happening throughout British Columbia this June.

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Squamish

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre will be hosting an immersive cultural experience event from June 21 to July 3 to celebrate the spirit of Skw̲xw̲ú7mesh and Líl̓wat7úl.

Over the course of a week and a half, event attendees can connect with cultural ambassadors as they share live carvings, performances, storytelling and guided tours of the museum. Admission is free for all guests.

To learn more, visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre website.

Surrey's National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration & Wellness Event

The Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and Katzie First Nations are hosting Surrey’s National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration & Wellness Event at Holland Park in Surrey on June 21 from 3 to 8 pm.

The event will feature cultural sharings from the local First Nations and Nova Métis with teaching and practice through art, music, storytelling and dance. Admission is free for all guests.

To learn more, visit the City of Surrey’s website.

Indigenous Day at Historic Hat Creek Ranch

Historic Hat Creek Ranch in Cache Creek will be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 from 10 am to 2 pm.

The event will feature cultural activities, artisan markets, performances from Indigenous groups and more. Admission is free for all guests. 

To learn more, visit Historic Hat Creek Ranch’s website.

APTN Indigenous Day Live 2022

APTN Indigenous Day Live brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in celebration for a live broadcast on June 18 at 7 pm PDT.

The broadcast will feature cultural and artistic collaborations of artists, musicians, poets, dancers, comedians and more. The show will honour and express gratitude to our lands and the important relationship Indigenous peoples have with it. 

To learn more or join the broadcast, visit the APTN website.

Published on June 17, 2022.