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. (Source: Indigenous Services Canada)
Due to COVID-19, many National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations across Canada have been set aside to keep families and communities safe by following public health instructions.
In the geographical area of Prairie Mountain Health - First Nations people since time immemorial have traditionally gathered during this time – to renew friendships and create new allies. The social events of the season include pow-wows where “All Nations” come together. Metis citizens meet in similar ways to honor the past and keep alive the traditions of music, dance, food and fellowship.
During this time of COVID-19, many Indigenous people across the land have also embraced the opportunity to reconnect with the land as a means of isolating, staying safe and providing on-the land education for children and family units.
As challenging as it may be to maintain safe social distancing, there is also an opportunity to reflect on personal growth and self-care. Indigenous people have long recognized the gifts of nature as a strength to balance the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being.
“Indigenous communities have taken this time as an opportunity to reintroduce their youth back onto the land…...many are finding security in traditions: picking Labrador Tea and Cedar to share with Elders and families….Indigenous people have always been resilient and the resilience comes from the teachings and the medicines.” (CBC Indigenous News Articles)
“This (land) is one of our strengths, it’s our identity – and we have so much knowledge holders that are with us and that are willing to share. Relationships with the land are important for the health of individuals, the earth, and our relationships with each other.” (Chloe Dragon-Smith)
On behalf of Prairie Mountain Health, we extend best wishes to Indigenous friends, communities, partners and networks for a Happy National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21, 2020.