Honouring Indigenous Peoples of Canada

Dreamcatcher

We would be remiss if we didn’t begin this post with our deepest sympathies and condolences to every person, family, and community impacted by the 215 children whose remains were found at a former residential school.

It’s hard to know what to do and where to start with reconciliation and reparations. But one immediate suggestion is education. Start by reviewing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Learn not only about National Indigenous History Month but also about Indigenous History in Canada. We can all make a difference.

What is National Indigenous History Month?

We celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the heritage and diversity of all the Indigenous peoples of our country. By setting aside some dedicated time during the year, we can hope to learn about and celebrate their rich heritage. It helps to create awareness about and instil an appreciation for indigenous culture and history. Of course, during this month, we don’t just look at the past. We celebrate the present and the future of the indigenous peoples of Canada. National Indigenous History Month gives each Canadian an opportunity to recognize the strength of the present-day indigenous communities. All throughout June, the Canadian government and local indigenous organizations set up activities to learn about and acknowledge the incredible ways the indigenous communities (including the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples) have shaped our country. The Government extends their support by providing resources, ideas for events and funding opportunities for community celebratory events.

Why do we celebrate National Indigenous History Month in June?

There are some very important reasons why June was chosen as National Indigenous History Month. Historically, many of the indigenous communities observed ceremonies and celebrations around this time. It makes perfect sense to honour the traditional timing and mark June as the month to learn more about and celebrate indigenous history and culture. Besides, June is also the month of the summer solstice. The summer solstice, which occurs every year on June 21, is the longest day of the year. It marks the official beginning of summer. It also carries great significance for indigenous peoples. The summer solstice is a sacred day. Many indigenous communities observe celebrations and ceremonies on or near this day. June 21 is therefore also National Indigenous People’s Day.

Who are the Indigenous Peoples?

Officially, the Canadian Constitution recognizes the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as the aboriginal peoples or indigenous peoples of Canada. While these three groups are similar in many ways, each community has their own distinct heritage. They also have different cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. Each group also speaks its own distinct language. When we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day or National Indigenous History Month, we honour and celebrate the culture, history, and tradition of all the indigenous peoples of Canada.

What is National Indigenous Peoples Day?

Sure, we celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and amazing contributions of indigenous communities throughout the month. However, June 21 was specially chosen by the Canadian government as an official day for Canadians to honour and celebrate indigenous communities. It 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 first National Indigenous Peoples Day was declared and celebrated in 1996. This means that June 21, 2021 will see the national 25th anniversary of this special day. It wasn’t always called National Indigenous Peoples Day.  The National Indigenous Peoples Day was originally called National Aboriginal Day. It was renamed in 2017 to align with internationally recognized and more respectful terms. Announcing the government’s intention to rename the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Every year, we join together on this day to recognize the fundamental contributions that First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation have made to the identity and culture of all Canadians. The history, art, traditions, and cultures of Indigenous Peoples have shaped our past, and continue to shape who we are today.” He added, “This year, I am also pleased to announce that from here forward the Government’s intention is to rename this day National Indigenous Peoples Day. “As you can see, National Indigenous Peoples Day is an important day for all Canadians. It also has a very interesting history.

The first National Indigenous Peoples Day was celebrated on June 21, 1996. Canadians were asked to observe this special day through an announcement and declaration made by Roméo LeBlanc, who was Canada’s Governor General at that time. The decision to observe such a day was made after in-depth consultation with the indigenous communities. Many indigenous communities had expressed the need for such a day and offered their statements of support. In 1982, the Assembly of First Nations (formerly known as the National Indian Brotherhood) expressed the need for a special day for people to support indigenous peoples. They created the National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. Thirteen years later, in 1995, the Sacred Assembly was chaired by Elijah Harper. Sacred Assembly is a national conference attended by both indigenous as well as non-indigenous people. In this conference, a decision was made to call for a national holiday that would celebrate the contributions made by the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. In the same year, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also recommended a day in the year to be observed as National First Peoples Day. Canadians have been celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day ever since. Though the official name of the day has changed, the purpose has always been clear – to honour the heritage, diversity, and immense contributions of the indigenous communities of Canada.

How does Innovation support and encourage Indigenous Peoples?

As a proud partner of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, we recognize, value and celebrate the diverse cultures and heritages who are part of the communities we live in, members we serve, and Innovation family of employees. Innovation Credit Union acknowledges that Indigenous peoples are the traditional guardians of this land that we call Canada.

Employment equity, diversity and inclusion has been part of Innovation’s Strategic Plan for a number of years. We recognize that Employment Equity is a value at the core of our mandate as a community leader and as an industry-leading employer. We are committed to ensuring that internal policies, practices, and systems are free of barriers, emphasize the value of diversity, and promote full participation to ensure dignity, respect, and equal access for all employees.

This isn’t part of legislation as we move towards becoming federal, it’ just the right thing to do. It also makes smart business sense. We believe that the more diversified our staff, the more knowledge, skills, abilities, and ideas we have in our teams.

We also recognize the Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action made by the Canadian Government, which says,  “The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and ensuring that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.”

While our employees know we are an equal opportunity employer and have a commitment towards Truth & Reconciliation, we believe it is essential for our future employees, members, potential members and any other organizations or outside sources we do business with, know this as well.

While we cannot celebrate National Indigenous History Month in-person (due to COVID-19 restrictions) we do still hope to extend our full support to the Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action and honour National Indigenous History Month. To show our support, all outgoing employee external emails contain a small statement stating Innovation’s recognition, celebration and valuing of the diverse cultures and heritages that are a part of the communities we serve. The statement also acknowledges Indigenous Peoples as the traditional guardians of Canada. This statement is aligned with our core values of respect and community. After all, we’re all about Responsible Banking!

How can I celebrate National Indigenous History Month or National Indigenous Peoples Day?

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the Canadian Government has invited all Canadians to celebrate National Indigenous History Month from home. But, if you’d like to join the celebrations on National Indigenous Peoples Day, you still can! Check out Celebrate Canada! to learn about the different virtual activities happening across the country. You can also personally commit to learning more about the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.  You can read e-books and resources that share the culture, histories, lands, and languages of Indigenous communities. Or, you can watch intriguing visuals and movies from Indigenous artists as they converse and narrate their history and culture through creative visual storytelling or listen to podcasts and audio clips. You can even get the whole family involved in National Indigenous History Month celebrations with crafts and multimedia activities.

However you plan to celebrate and support National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, we would like to wish every Canadian “Happy National Indigenous Peoples Month!” It’s our sincere privilege to pay homage to the Traditional Guardians of Canada.