For almost 30 years, June 21 has been celebrated as National Indigenous Peoples Day – a chance to recognize and honour the achievements of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. However, the day has a much deeper significance for many Indigenous communities, including the Anishinaabe.
June 21 also marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year when Mother Earth moves closest to the sun, or Mishoom Giizis in Anishinaabemowin.
“It always has been an incredibly important day to come together to celebrate life and our people’s survival – to celebrate the earth, water, and everything that gives life. I think it is important to carry on that tradition,” shares Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Trent's director of the First Peoples House of Learning (FPHL). “It's that celebration of life compared to September 30, Orange Shirt Day, which is more a day to remember the tragedies, those we lost, the hardships. Our people are all about balance, and these are two sides of the same coin.”
Celebrating Indigenous Knowledge and achievements
According to Dr. Lavell-Harvard, National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize Indigenous peoples' many outstanding achievements and contributions to the world.
Did you know that democracy and sustainability have been part of Indigenous ways of living since time immemorial? Indigenous peoples are also the creators of the hammock, canoe and kayak, various team sports like lacrosse, and pain relief medication, to name a few.
Canadian Studies Ph.D. student David Newland believes that, although every day should be dedicated to Indigenous relations, ways of knowing, and culture, commemorative days like National Indigenous Peoples Day provide non-Indigenous people with starting point from which to explore their personal relationship with Indigenous peoples and the land we live on from the viewpoint of responsibility.
“I think what's really being offered is an opportunity to enrich the experience of what it means to live in a place with people on the land,” explains David, who is exploring the topic of settler place-making in Indigenous territory through his research. “Whether we're acknowledging it or not, we all live in Indigenous territories on Indigenous lands, with Indigenous peoples. So, to become aware of that and to begin to function from that place is really important.”
Explore Indigenous art and culture at Trent
On campus on June 21? Be sure to explore Trent’s impressive array of Indigenous artwork on display at both the Peterborough and Durham campuses. Those interested in the performing arts are in for a treat as the Nogojiwanong Indigenous Fringe Festival kicks off on the Symons Campus with an opening celebration and two performances in the Nozhem Theatre on June 21.
FPHL will be closed on the day to allow faculty, students, and staff to celebrate the day with their communities.