National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada Date in the current year: June 21, 2024

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada National Indigenous Peoples Day, originally established as National Aboriginal Day, is observed in Canada on June 21. It was created to recognize and celebrate the cultures and contributions of the indigenous peoples of Canada (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) to the country’s history and the development of Canadian culture.

Indigenous people, formerly referred to as Aboriginal people, make up an estimated 5% of Canada’s population. According to the Constitution Act of 1982, they comprise the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (Canadians of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry that have a shared history and culture). First Nations and Inuit were originally referred to as Indians and Eskimo, respectively, but the old terms have fallen into disuse.

The history of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada dates back to 1945, when Indigenous activist Jules Sioui and tribal chiefs from across North America declared June 21 “Indian Day”. Such a date was chosen because the day of the summer solstice has a cultural significance for a lot of Indigenous peoples and communities.

Indian Day did not become an annual observance, but the idea of celebrating a holiday dedicated to the Indigenous heritage resurfaced in 1982. This time, it was the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) that proposed to celebrate the day of the summer solstice as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.

In 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended to inaugurate National First Peoples Day. The idea was further promulgated by The Sacred Assembly consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and chaired by Oji-Cree politician Elijah Harper. The next year, National Aboriginal Day was proclaimed by Governor General Roméo LeBlanc.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed to rename the observance National Indigenous Peoples Day. The proposal was supported by the Assembly of the First Nations, but it wasn’t formally implemented due to the dissolution of the parliament in 2019. However, the new name has been used for years by the federal government even without the official approval.

It should be noted that National Indigenous Peoples Day is not a federal holiday. It is celebrated as a statutory holiday in two Canadian territories: the Northwest Territories (recognized in 2001) and Yukon (recognized in 2017). However, Indigenous peoples and allies across Canada observe it nonetheless.

National Indigenous Peoples Day kicks off a series of celebrations called Celebrate Canada days, which includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (the national holiday of Quebec, celebrated on June 24), Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27), and Canada Day (the national day of Canada, celebrated on July 1).

Canada is not the only country that celebrates its aboriginal heritage on the day of the June solstice. This day is a public holiday in Peru, where it has the same name, and in Bolivia, where it is known as Andean-Amazonic New Year or Willkakuti. Since both countries are situated in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the day of the winter solstice there.

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National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, observances in Canada, cultural observances, Indigenous peoples of Canada