June 21, aka summer solstice, the longest day of the year, has always held special significance for Indigenous people across the globe. This year, the date will mark the second annual National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. National Aboriginal Day was celebrated for some time on the same day, and one could say the spirit of the day predates Canada altogether – but we digress.
Most of us here at the Nation appreciated the name change announced last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. We would have appreciated it more if the PM’s name change came as a statutory holiday but hey, that’s life. Also, we’ve been taking June 21 off here at the Nation offices since the 1990s, so it was more of a solidarity thing – but we digress again.
The point we’re getting at is that, on Indigenous Day, we should all be out there celebrating the beauty of Indigenous cultures. Indigenous people, non-Indigenous people, everyone.
And with that, here are some ways to do so.
When the Nation reached out to the cultural departments, recreation officers, youth councils and band offices in the Cree communities, the majority were in the middle of planning their Indigenous Peoples Day events. Most assured us that there would be a community event held on Indigenous Peoples Day, and to watch the community bulletin boards and Facebook pages for the official announcements. In Waswanipi, however, a representative explained the community would be hosting its annual Waswanipi Day Celebration June 8-9 in lieu of an Indigenous Peoples Day event.
The majority of celebrations in Mistissini happen on June 20 and will begin with a walking out ceremony at 8:30 am. Throughout the day the track and field centre will play host to vendors, workshops and traditional games for the entire family. In the evening there will be a feast and entertainment. The Indigenous Day planning committee intends to host a breakfast-brunch on June 21, accompanied by a presentation by community Elders on Cree history.
In Waskaganish, a full day of events will commence June 21 at 4:30 am with a walking out ceremony. The morning plans include a 6 am breakfast as well as traditional teaching workshops and vendors at the Rupert River Hall at 10 am. In the afternoon there will be an inflatable playground, rides, games and competitions as well as a BBQ. In the evening, a traditional feast will be held to go along with the “First Goose Awards” and some musical entertainment.
This year, Indigenous Day comes early in Chibougamau as the Chibougamau Eenou Friendship Centre (CEFC) will hold its Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on June 15.
According to CEFC executive director Jo-Ann Toulouse, there are a number of reasons for celebrating early. Many of the Elders involved with the CEFC find themselves in their own Indigenous communities on June 21, and as it’s not a statutory holiday, others will be working. Toulouse told the Nation that competing events and the end of the school year played a role in the decision to host the event on the Saturday before Indigenous Peoples Day.
But come June 15, the CEFC has a full day of events planned starting in the morning with a Sunrise Ceremony, followed by a Walking Out Ceremony. Later in the morning and into the early afternoon, they have games and demonstrations planned followed by a feast honouring the children who completed their Walking Out Ceremony. Performances are scheduled for the evening.
Ready to get your Indigenous Pride on in Val-d’Or? The city is once again throwing a large party for the whole family through the Native Friendship Centre.
The celebrations start at 12:45 pm with a Grand Entry Ceremony followed by traditional drumming and dancing, traditional food tasting, workshops, art exhibits, demonstrations and musical performances. About 1,000 people attended last year’s event, and the city is hoping to attract even more this year.
This year’s theme will be Honouring Indigenous Women and will be hosted at the Kinawit cultural site June 21.
Unlike last year, APTN live will not be hosting a stage in Montreal. Instead, Terre en Vues will lead the charge on the Indigenous Day festivities.
The celebrations start at 9:15 am sharp with a precession beginning at La Place Vauquelin next to City Hall and finishing in the Old Port at the Red Moon Pyramid. Once the precession reaches the pyramid a welcoming ceremony will commence, followed by speeches and a multimedia show by Atikamekw filmmaker Catherine Boivin. As the festivities near the noon hour, a sculpture will be unveiled and a tobacco ceremony will be conducted.
The morning of celebrations will close with a song and dance performance. If you’re in the area be sure to check out what promises to be a beautiful and fun morning of Indigenous culture in the heart of the city.
From June 20-23, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival will take place on the banks of the Rideau Canal at Ottawa’s Massey Park. it promises to be a weekend of family fun and will play host to an education day, a stage for musical acts, culinary events as well as a powwow.
Education Day is expected to welcome close to 5,000 students and teachers from schools in the surrounding area. Through interactive workshops, students will learn about the Indigenous Peoples of Canada as well as the cultural and historical significance of the summer solstice.
On June 21, the festival hosts an Indigenous Chef Feast. Then over the weekend, the INDIGICHEF competition takes place. INDIGICHEF is a judged competition akin to TV shows like Top Chef or MasterChef, with a distinctly Indigenous flair.
Finally, a powwow will be held over the weekend with over $75,000 up for grabs in prizes. Grand entries for the powwow start at noon on both Saturday and Sunday.