National Aboriginal Day

National Aboriginal Day

National Aboriginal Day is a national day where all Canadians recognize as well as celebrate the diverse cultures, unique heritage and outstanding contribution of the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people (popularly known as aboriginal people or indigenous people).

National Aboriginal Day (NAD) is celebrated every year in Canada on June 21st. The year 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day. 

The Canadian Government in conjunction with indigenous organizations chose June 21st, the summer solstice, as the National Aboriginal Day.  For many generations, Aboriginal people have celebrated their culture as well as heritage during or near June 21st because of the importance of summer solstice i.e. the onset of summer and the longest day in a year.

students honouring First Nations, Metis, and Inuit veterans on National Aboriginal Day 2016
Photo: Students honour veterans at National Aboriginal Day.

The Canadian Constitution acknowledges the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people as aboriginal people. Although First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people share many similarities, they all have their own unique heritage, language, spiritual beliefs, and cultural practices.

The Creation of the National Aboriginal Day

The National Aboriginal Day was officially named in 1996 by Romeo LeBlanc, the then Governor General of Canada. As mentioned above, the day was formed after consultations with aboriginal groups. A number of events led to the creation of the National Aboriginal Day.

The most notable events include;

  • 1982: The Assembly of First Nations (known as National Indian Brotherhood then) called for the establishment of a National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.
  • 1995: The Royal Commission on indigenous/aboriginal people pushed for the selection of a National First Peoples’ Day. The same year, the Sacred Assembly (a nationwide conference composed of both Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people) led by the then Chair; Elijah Harper, called for the establishment of a national holiday to honour the contribution of indigenous people.
student activities on National Aboriginal Day 2016
Photo: Student activities on National Aboriginal Day.

A year later, the Canadian Government chose a date; June 21st and a name for the day: National Aboriginal Day.

How the Canadian Government supports National Aboriginal Day

The National Aboriginal Day falls under the Celebrate Canada Program which also includes other important national days like; the Saint Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24th, the Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27th and Canada Day on July 1st.

All the departments of the Government support the National Aboriginal Day fully. The day is however promoted by the Indigenous & Northern Affairs Canada and Canadian Heritage. Indigenous & Northern Affairs Canada offers resources among other kinds of support like ideas for events. Canadian Heritage offers funding opportunities for celebratory events.

What is the National Aboriginal Day about?

National Aboriginal Day has many goals. First and foremost, the day is about celebrating aboriginal people. The day also has educational goals i.e. educating the public on the role of Aboriginal people, their culture, and traditions.

Although different regions in Canada may celebrate the National Aboriginal Day differently, there is a special focus on teaching school students about Aboriginal people and their important contribution. Schools and communities also try to teach aboriginal culture and traditions on National Aboriginal Day. Examples of activities students and communities engage in include; hand drum making, storytelling, traditional dance, and song, dressing, etc.

How Can You Participate?

You can take part in various ways during the National Aboriginal Day.

The most notable ways include;

1. Become a Vendor or Crafter

The National Aboriginal Day offers you a perfect opportunity to showcase and even sell any indigenous handmade arts and crafts you may have in your possession. You can also share meals at a community level as well as information if you have an organization that offers indigenous programs and services.

2. Become a sponsor

You can also choose to participate as a sponsor for events held on Aboriginal Day in your community. Although the day receives funding, there are always opportunities for sponsorship at a community level. For instance, you can choose to sponsor a community feast, artisans, open air concerts, etc. held to honour the day. You can also choose to sponsor Aboriginal initiatives in the community i.e. traditional teachings, learning stations, etc.

3. Become a Volunteer

You can also participate on a volunteer basis. You don’t have to support the National Aboriginal Day with finances. You can render your special skills, time and effort for free. You can choose to be a volunteer in an organizing committee of an event to be held on National Aboriginal Day. You can also volunteer to teach indigenous culture and traditions to younger generations. National Aboriginal Day celebrations need volunteers for them to succeed on a community level. Volunteering your time, skills, effort, knowledge, etc. is a great way to participate.


National Aboriginal Day Youtube Channel

National Aboriginal Day Photos on Flickr

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Photos on Flickr

Follow the hashtag #NADCanada on Twitter for the latest news about National Aboriginal Day.

Photo Credit

Permission to use the image in this blog post is from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Find similar images on their Flickr site. Only some images are available for use, most photos are marked All Rights Reserved.