“It is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our respect and admiration for First Nations, for Inuit, for Metis – for the past, the present and the future”
On June 21st the 21st National Aboriginal Day will be celebrated across Canada. National Aboriginal Day celebrations kick off “Celebrate Canada,” which is a four-day celebration kicking off at the end of June that also includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and Canada Day. National Aboriginal Day is an integral part of Celebrate Canada, but also possesses great significance as an individual day to “celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada (Government of Canada, National Aboriginal Day).” Across the country, ceremonies and celebrations take place with cultural performers, activities, arts and crafts, and events recognizing contributions. Communities will gather, sharing in First Nations, Metis and Inuit spirit, experiences, stories, songs, art and dance.
History of National Aboriginal Day
In 1996, National Aboriginal Day began as an annual celebration after former Governor General Romeo A. LeBlanc declared its beginning. However, National Aboriginal Day dates back to 1982, when the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for National Aboriginal Solidarity Day to be created. In 1990, the legislature of Quebec established June 21 as a day for celebrating Aboriginal culture, and in 1995, the Sacred Assembly, chaired by Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday celebrating the contributions of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, in 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples made a recommendation of creating National First Peoples Day. Ultimately, this process culminated with the declaration by LeBlanc in 1996, that June 21 of each year would be National Aboriginal Day.
June 21, the summer solstice, was chosen as the annual date of National Aboriginal Day in cooperation with Indigenous organizations. Many communities celebrate culture and heritage on or near this day because of the significance of the solstice. Each year, gatherings of community members take place to “celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada” (National Aboriginal Day, Government of Canada). “From St. John’s Newfoundland, to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia and Cape Dorset, Nunavut, Aboriginal and northern people and communities across Canada have success stories to share” (Aboriginal and Northern Success Stories, Government of Canada).
Entrepreneurs Creating a Foundation for Success
Medicine Wheel Monuments
Haida Owned and Operated Graduate
We at ACE are grateful for the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs creating and contributing to successes in their community. In Shuswap, BC, Karen August has spent time working in a variety of community-focused positions throughout her career, and is now working at her business, Medicine Wheel Monuments to provide community members with gravestones for their loved one at a reasonable price. Karen, a graduate of LD-ACE Cohort 1, explains that she has noticed many grave markers in her community are wooden crosses that quickly deteriorate or fall over, and that many families cannot afford to purchase a traditional grave marker. Karen’s business provides durable, personalized grave markers, but at a price point much lower compared to a traditional grave marker. Karen is focused on helping families grieving the loss of a loved-one, and also leaving something behind for future generations, including her children. Karen is focused on showing her children and her community that running a business on reserve is an exciting opportunity, and describes that she wants “to show others – especially other First Nations people – that we can do it on our own.”
On Haida Gwaii, Patrick Shannon is not only shaping his own success, but also creating a foundation for success of members in the community on Haida Gwaii. Patrick Shannon is a professional creative and social entrepreneur, with expertise in photography, graphic design, web design and video production. A focus of Patrick’s work is storytelling of Haida ancestry, finding inspiration from his cultural upbringing. Patrick, a graduate of Haida Owned and Operated Cohort 1, is the owner and operator of a creative agency he cofounded, InnoNative, and cofounder of Xaayda Hub, a social enterprise he also cofounded that provided a space for professionals to collaborate on Haida Gwaii before closing last year. Patrick’s passion for art and culture is evident through his successes as a social entrepreneur. In 2015, Patrick received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the BC Aboriginal Business Awards, an award open to over 200 000 Aboriginal People. When describing this award, Patrick emphasized its importance as a launching pad for helping other members of the community achieve success: “[t]his award is putting what we do, all our services, in front of the top business leaders in B.C., which can’t do anything but help.”
With great successes achieved by individuals and communities around the Country, June 21st will be a day of great celebration. Whether it is through entrepreneurship, art, song, stories, dance, or another form, members of communities are demonstrating a commitment to strengthening the community and culture everyday. We at ACE are honoured to have the opportunity to work with members of communities and take part in celebrating their successes on June 21st and on a continuous basis as they continue to build a foundation for future generations in Canada.
Links and Sources: