I am Métis and often my thinking swings from First Peoples to first explorers. My ancestors are French and Lakota People. However, after speaking with a First Nations Elder and doing a little research, I realized this would be a small opportunity to talk about nationalizing events, ideas and people.
I grew up on the Prairies and June 21 was always considered a special day for me. My mother told me that because it was the longest day of the year, I could stay up to watch the sun go down, and we often had picnics and visited with family and friends. Later, I realized that this time of year was the Solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun in this part of the world reaches its northern-most point and gives us the longest period of daylight.
The summer solstice is a celebration of the cycle of the Earth through growth and regeneration, and of our relationship with the Earth, sky and universe. Many First Peoples have dancing, singing, drumming, prayers, meditation, fasting, and feasting, often related to the Sun Dance ceremony which began thousands of years ago.
June 21 was recognized as National Aboriginal Day in 1996 by the Canadian government. What is disappointing, though, is that Aboriginal Day is not treated with the same respect as other annual celebrations. Unlike Canada Day or Family Day or Labour Day, National Aboriginal Day has not been declared a statutory holiday.
As a national holiday, it would provide a great opportunity for Canadians to listen to and learn from the First Peoples. It would be an opportunity to hear about our respective world views, histories and cultures. First Nations, Métis and Inuit are as diverse as the rest of the world. There is so much knowledge to share, knowledge that goes back since time immemorial, before Europeans immigrated to North America.
The First Peoples, as the name suggests, were here first. After a few thousand years, we have a great deal to say and to share with the rest of Canada. That would truly be a National Aboriginal Day.