National Aboriginal History Month - Why it’s important

June 11, 2013

Background to National Aboriginal History Month

1982: The National Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of First Nations) called for a creation of a National Aboriginal Solidarity Day on June 21.

1990: The Quebec legislature recognized June 21 as a day to celebrate Aboriginal culture

1995: The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended a day be designated as National First Peoples Day. The Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people chaired by the late Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

1996: Governor General Romeo LeBlanc proclaimed that National Aboriginal Day would be celebrated June 21 each year. "On June 21st, this year and every year, Canada will honour the native peoples who first brought humanity to this great land," said Leblanc. "And may the first peoples of our past always be full and proud partners in our future."

2008: Prime Minister Harper offered the full apologyon behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system.

2009: By unanimous motion in Canada’s House of Commons, the month of June was declared National Aboriginal History Month.

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What does that mean?

It means that during June, Aboriginal history is brought to the forefront in Canada. It is a month for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to reflect upon the history, sacrifices, contributions, culture and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.


Why do Aboriginal People need to celebrate their culture?

A strong and vibrant culture is a key component to healthy communities for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. The First Nations Regional Health Survey, released in June 2012, “found that adults who frequently participated in community cultural events "were less likely to be depressed, more likely to perceive control over their lives, more likely to perceive greater social support, and less likely to use licit and illicit substances."


The survey also found that “The majority of adults (83%) taking part in the First Nations Regional Health Survey (RHS) say they feel their cultures on-reserve and in northern communities had either improved or stayed the same. This is encouraging news after decades of government policies that sought to eradicate First Nations languages and cultures."


In a press release for the release of the RHS, Jane Gray, the National Projects Manager of the First Nations Governance Information Centre and national coordinator of the RHS, said that while the results are encouraging they are also fragile. "We've seen a lot of hard work on the part of First Nations to stop the erosion and rebuild their languages and cultural practices over the years. Our Health survey shows that First Nations have made some gains but questions remain whether the support will be there for language programs to introduce another generation of youth to their own ceremonies and beliefs."


Read this: National Aboriginal Day: 21+ Important Indigenous People to Celebrate


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