On June 21, you and all your friends are invited to a very special celebration! That date, the first day of summer, has been chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day!

In 1996, the Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, proclaimed it National Aboriginal Day! It’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. In 2017, the Prime Minister announced the day would be renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Why June 21? For centuries, many of the first inhabitants would celebrate the arrival of the warm weather and the pleasures of the summer solstice. The summer solstice is the day of the year with the longest light. It is a day with spiritual significance for many people and is a good time to celebrate Indigenous peoples and cultures.

Activities for National Indigenous Peoples Day are organized across Canada every year. You can take part by getting in touch with an Indigenous community or a local Indigenous organization, or by organizing your own activities with your relatives and friends. For more information about the day’s activities, you can visit Canada.ca/national-indigenouspeoples-day.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is for all Canadians, so share in the celebration.

Come Celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day!

Our culture: An Indigenous way of life

Did you know that there are three groups of Indigenous Peoples in Canada? They are First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Our culture is reflected in our way of life, and we like to celebrate the heritage given to us by our ancestors. Indigenous languages are made up of several language families. If we wanted to refer to all the First Nations in Algonquian, we would use the word “anicinabec.” Algonquian is one of the many Indigenous language families. Each language family includes a number of related languages. For example, the Beaver and Tahltan languages are part of the great Athabascan language family.

Today, culture is the key to our pride. Indigenous languages, history and culture are taught by our families, our Elders and our teachers. In 1999, the first Indigenous television network in the world was launched. The APTN or Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, has given Indigenous peoples like us a great opportunity to share our stories on television with the rest of the country on a regular basis. For all Canadians, this network is like a window looking out onto the incredibly diverse world of Indigenous peoples in Canada and other countries.

From Oujé-Bougoumou to Batoche

Indigenous peoples are dynamic and creative. A great number of our achievements are a source of pride to all Canadians.

In Quebec, the Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou received an international award from the United Nations for its circular-shaped village. This village is recognized around the world for its original design, which is exactly suited to the needs and culture of the Oujé-Bougoumou Cree.

On Vancouver Island, the village of the Cowichan First Nation is a tourist attraction that contains a world-class conference centre. The village and the centre host a series of fascinating activities all year round. This village is a beautiful, colourful place that attracts visitors for a wide variety of entertaining and educational activities.

During the Back to Batoche cultural festival held every year in Saskatchewan, the Métis celebrate their traditions with many events, including the “Métis Voyageur Games.” Inspired by traditional Métis work and leisure activities, the competitions include carrying a 245 kg bag, tomahawk throwing, firing a slingshot, as well as fiddle and dance competitions.

On April 1, 1999, all of Canada celebrated the creation of Nunavut, Canada’s third territory. The word Nunavut means “our land” in Inuktut.

Medicine from nature

For thousands of years there was a natural system of medicine in our land. It was the first inhabitants who perfected that system based on their knowledge of trees and plants.

The valuable knowledge we had of plants and natural medicines enabled us to cure many illnesses. Did you know that it was First Nations people who cured the scurvy of the first Europeans to arrive here? The First Nations knew that this illness was not an infection, but the result of poor nutrition (a shortage of vitamin C in the diet).

The sarsaparilla plant, well known to the Algonquin people, has amazing properties. It nourishes and purifies the blood and strengthens the whole body. It can also be used to treat rheumatism and skin diseases.

Indigenous peoples also used witch hazel for its beneficial effects on the skin. We now find this plant used in a number of products such as creams, soaps and aftershave lotions.

The fir, pine and spruce trees that you are familiar with were used against coughs and to clear out the respiratory passages.

Indigenous peoples also made a powder from sphagnum moss to soothe skin irritations, especially the ones babies are prone to. This powder can still be found in pharmacies today; it is used to dry out wounds.

There are many other medicinal resources in nature that have not been mentioned here.