Written by: Cindy Monague
Summer solstice is the longest day of the year, celebrated on June 21st as the season changes, fresh starts begin and joy and happiness are felt as the sun shines down on those longing for warmth, sunlight and vitamin D! On this day, Canadian Indigenous communities come together to celebrate and recognize the history, culture and resilience of First Nation people. Celebrating with drumming, dancing, story telling, feasts and togetherness, Indigenous people across Turtle Island (North America) share, educate and bring awareness of their culture, traditions, success and overall pride to who we are as Indigenous people.
On June 21st, 1996, then Governor General of Canada Romeo LeBlanc, proclaimed that day to be the first Indigenous Day and that it would become an annual national celebration. In 2009, a motion was passed to make the month of June National Aboriginal History Month in Canada.
The motion was passed and the day was proclaimed in hopes that we could bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together as one, being able to take the time to bring awareness to Indigenous history, culture and issues that Indigenous communities across Turtle Island have faced and continue to face.
As an Indigenous woman growing up in a small First Nation Community (Hiawatha First Nation) and connecting with other Indigenous people and communities, I was able to understand and learn the different struggles First Nation communities were having and are continuing to have. As we begin to bring more awareness and opportunities for others to hear our story, we continue to hope we can break the stigma around Indigenous culture, history, beliefs and rights.
Indigenous Day is a time for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together to laugh, socialize, acknowledge and remember. We laugh as we talk about old memories and new, we laugh as we cross paths with those we haven’t seen for some time and miss, we laugh as we know laughter is a form of healing. Indigenous Day brings people together and allows them a time to socialize with family, friends and to connect with new faces. Allowing the day to bring joy and happiness as we share stories of who we are.
June 21st acknowledges Indigenous people for where we came from, where we are at, and where we are going. It’s a day to acknowledge our successes as First Nation people, to acknowledge our way of life, and to acknowledge all those who came before us and will come after. On this day, as we celebrate our beautiful people, we remember what our ancestors had to go through to get us to where we are today. The 60s Scoop, where child welfare agents came in and scooped up an estimated 20,000 innocent children from their communities to take them to a place where they hopefully would forget their culture, traditions and language. Remembering the residential school survivors and those who did not make it home. Agents arriving unannounced, taking children right from their parent's arms, homes, and land, putting them in a school where they were forbidden to speak anything but English, wear only the clothes they were given and, without consent, having their hair, which to Indigenous people is part of their spirit, cut and shaved off. It is a time to remember how far we have come but also how far we still need to go.
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience Indigenous Day, culture, teachings, story telling, feasts, drumming, dancing, and celebrations, I encourage you to find a local event close to your home to attend, and to listen, to watch, to learn and most importantly to enjoy! As Indigenous people we invite you to come and share in our day as we celebrate the pride we have for our Indigenous people, communities, accomplishments and culture!