Brigette MacDougall, centre, led a song during a National Indigenous Peoples Day gathering June 2021. She was accompanied by Rose McArthur, left, and Cindy Wilgosh. (Stephanie Hagenaars / Clearwater Times)

Brigette MacDougall, centre, led a song during a National Indigenous Peoples Day gathering June 2021. She was accompanied by Rose McArthur, left, and Cindy Wilgosh. (Stephanie Hagenaars / Clearwater Times)

National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples.

Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day, now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day. For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.

What led to the creation of National Indigenous Peoples Day?

National Aboriginal Day (now National Indigenous Peoples Day) was announced in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. This was the result of consultations and statements of support for such a day made by various Indigenous groups:

in 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day;

in 1995, the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people chaired by Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Peoples;

also in 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day.

On June 21, 2017, the Prime Minister issued a statement announcing the intention to rename this day National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Simpcw First Nation is a Secwepemc First Nation government located in a semi-remote area of the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia, approximataely 80 kilometres north of Kamloops and roughly 45 kilometres south of Clearwater. It is one of 17 bands who historically and currently live in the North Thompson valley.

Archaeological surveys done throughout the 5,000,000 hectares of land once occupied by the Simpcw people have found winter sites and food cache pits in Vavenby, Birch Island, Clearwater, Little Fort and many areas in the region.

The Métis peoples also have a long history in the North Thompson valley, with reports as early as 1793. Research shows the Métis people have long had relationships with First Nations along the Trans Mountain corridor, as well as with the land, water and resources.

Economic activity throughout the Trans Mountain corridor in both the 19th and 20th centuries was strongly influenced by the Métis people and their communities. They held positions as militia, labourers, boatmen, hunters, interpreters and guides, among others, due to the fluidity and complexity of the family.

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