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National Indigenous History Month

By Denise Kirk
June 21, 2023


The lively spirit of National Indigenous Peoples Day washes across Canada on June 21st, inviting us to celebrate the wealth of Indigenous heritage that covers our nation’s cultural fabric. In this spectacular celebration, we start on a thrilling trip to examine the lives, legacies, and amazing resilience of three exceptional Indigenous groups: the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Join us as we unravel their enthralling stories, embracing the date that binds us in honor of their significant contributions to our shared history. We connect with the remarkable history of the Inuit through this lens by seeking insights from the acclaimed Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. Prepare to be immersed in a celebration of diversity, unity, and Indigenous cultures’ ageless knowledge.

In just one day, National Indigenous Peoples Day summarize centuries of ancestral wisdom, cultural resilience, and the relentless pursuit of harmony with the land. It serves as a powerful reminder to cherish and celebrate the invaluable contributions of Indigenous peoples across Canada. So, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on an awe-inspiring journey, traversing the contours of Indigenous heritage that have shaped and enriched our great nation.

Historical Background of National Indigenous History Month

The origin and establishment of National Indigenous History Month can be traced back to a series of events and advocacy efforts aimed at promoting Indigenous awareness and recognition. The month was officially established in June 2009, following the passing of a unanimous motion in the Canadian Parliament. This motion sought to acknowledge the contributions made by Indigenous peoples throughout history and to promote a greater understanding of their culture, heritage, and experiences.

Recognizing and honoring Indigenous history is of paramount importance, as it serves to rectify historical omissions, a move towards reconciliation. Indigenous peoples have a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years on the lands now known as Canada. By acknowledging their history, we affirm the significant role Indigenous communities have played in shaping the nation’s cultural, social, and political landscape. It allows us to confront and address the historical injustices, colonization, and systemic barriers that Indigenous peoples have faced and continue to face.

The month of June holds particular significance for Indigenous communities. It aligns with the summer solstice, which is a time of cultural and spiritual importance for many Indigenous nations. June also marks various celebrations and events that highlight Indigenous culture, including National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. By dedicating the entire month to Indigenous history, June provides an opportunity to raise awareness, celebrate achievements, and foster dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, promoting understanding, respect, and reconciliation.

Education and Awareness

Education and awareness play a crucial role in promoting a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and culture. One way to achieve this is by incorporating Indigenous history into educational curricula. It is important to ensure an accurate and inclusive representation of Indigenous peoples, their contributions, and the challenges they have faced.

Strategies such as integrating Indigenous perspectives, inviting guest speakers from Indigenous communities, and using culturally relevant materials can help create a more comprehensive and respectful learning environment. Additionally, virtual events during National Indigenous History Month offer opportunities for individuals to participate in online lectures, webinars, and panel discussions that delve into various aspects of Indigenous history and contemporary issues.

Virtual tours of Indigenous cultural sites and museums provide immersive experiences and insights into the richness of Indigenous cultures. Promoting online resources, including websites, documentaries, books, and social media campaigns, further enhances awareness and encourages ongoing education about Indigenous history and culture.

Exploring Indigenous History

Exploring Indigenous history involves acknowledging the profound impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples. Throughout history, Indigenous communities have faced numerous historical injustices, including forced displacement, cultural genocide, and systemic discrimination.

These injustices have had lasting effects on Indigenous communities, resulting in intergenerational trauma, loss of language and cultural practices, and socio-economic disparities. Understanding the historical context is crucial in recognizing the ongoing struggles and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples today.

In addition to acknowledging the impact of colonization, it is essential to share stories of resilience and resistance within Indigenous communities. Indigenous leaders and activists have played significant roles in advocating for their rights, reclaiming their cultural heritage, and challenging systemic inequalities.

By highlighting examples of Indigenous leaders and their contributions, as well as historical milestones in the pursuit of justice and equality, we can shed light on the strength, determination, and resilience of Indigenous peoples in the face of adversity. These stories serve as powerful reminders of the ongoing fight for self-determination, cultural revitalization, and the pursuit of justice for Indigenous communities.

Reconciliation Efforts

Reconciliation efforts are essential in addressing the historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples and fostering healing and understanding. In the context of Indigenous history, reconciliation refers to the process of acknowledging past wrongs, working towards restoring relationships, and creating a more equitable and inclusive society. It involves recognizing the rights, cultures, and self-determination of Indigenous peoples.

Governments and institutions have taken steps to advance reconciliation through policies and initiatives. These efforts include the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, which aim to address the legacy of residential schools and promote reconciliation.

However, challenges exist in fully implementing these measures, including the need for sustained commitment, resource allocation, and collaboration with Indigenous communities. Progress is being made, but there is still work to be done in addressing systemic issues and ensuring meaningful reconciliation.

Community-led reconciliation initiatives are vital in promoting healing and understanding. Indigenous communities are taking the lead in projects that prioritize cultural revitalization, language preservation, and promoting Indigenous knowledge systems. Collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are fostering dialogue, understanding, and joint efforts towards reconciliation.

These initiatives promote inclusivity, respect, and reciprocity, creating pathways for shared understanding and building stronger relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation.

Virtual events for National Indigenous History Month

Virtual events play a significant role in celebrating National Indigenous History Month, allowing individuals to engage with Indigenous history, culture, and perspectives from the comfort of their homes. These events provide opportunities for education, dialogue, and cultural exchange.

One prominent aspect of virtual events during National Indigenous History Month is the availability of online lectures, webinars, and panel discussions.

These events feature Indigenous scholars, activists, and community leaders sharing their knowledge and experiences. Topics range from historical narratives and contemporary issues to cultural practices and traditional knowledge. Participants have the chance to learn from experts in various fields and gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives. Some of the features of the virtual events of National Indigenous History Month are listed below.

  • Virtual Powwows: Indigenous communities and organizations have organized virtual powwows where participants can experience traditional dancing, drumming, and regalia from the comfort of their homes. These events often include live-streamed performances, educational segments, and interactive activities.
  • Online Indigenous Art Exhibitions: Virtual art exhibitions have showcased the works of Indigenous artists, ranging from paintings and sculptures to traditional crafts and contemporary installations. Participants can explore the artwork, learn about the artists’ inspirations, and even have the opportunity to purchase pieces directly from the exhibition.
  • Digital Storytelling and Oral History Sessions: Indigenous storytellers and elders have shared their stories, legends, and oral histories through virtual platforms. These sessions provide an intimate and immersive experience, connecting participants with the rich cultural heritage and wisdom of Indigenous communities.
  • Webinars and Panel Discussions: Online webinars and panel discussions have featured Indigenous scholars, activists, and community leaders discussing a wide range of topics, including Indigenous rights, environmental stewardship, language revitalization, and cultural preservation. Participants have the opportunity to learn from experts and engage in meaningful discussions.
  • Virtual Indigenous Film Festivals: Online film festivals have showcased Indigenous films and documentaries, allowing participants to watch thought-provoking and impactful stories from Indigenous filmmakers. These festivals often include Q&A sessions with directors, actors, or subject matter experts, providing deeper insights into the films.
  • Online Workshops and Demonstrations: Indigenous artists, artisans, and knowledge keepers have conducted virtual workshops and demonstrations on traditional practices, such as beadwork, birch bark biting, moccasin making, and traditional cooking. Participants can learn directly from experts and engage in hands-on activities.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to expand your knowledge and further educate yourself on Indigenous history, or are just looking for a great read, here is a list of the top ten ‘must read’ by Indigenous authors: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/indigenous-voices/.