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National Indigenous History Month Honours History, Heritage and Diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

June 1, 2022

This month, we acknowledge National Indigenous History Month as a way to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples and recognize the strength and resilience of communities.

Within National Indigenous History Month is National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, which was created in 1996. This date was selected in consultation with Indigenous communities and takes place around the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year and is a time many communities gather and celebrate.

The call for a national holiday to celebrate Indigenous peoples began in 1982, and was renewed in 1995 at the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people chaired by Elijah Harper. This call was echoed by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP).

In 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau named the day National Indigenous Peoples Day; and it continues to be a time to reflect on the importance of the contributions of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.

A large part of Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples involves the ongoing legacy and inter-generational trauma resulting from Indian Residential Schools.

Indian Residential Schools were put in a place by the government to erase the culture, language, and way of life of Indigenous groups by way of mass genocide. There were 140 federally-run Indian Residential Schools that operated in Canada between 1831 and 1998. The last school closed only 24 years ago. 

Amanda Gould, the CRNA’s Indigenous cultural advisor, says that when we talk about Indian Residential Schools we often just think of the abuse and loss of language; yet there is much more to learn to have a better understanding of the ongoing effects of residential schools on today’s Indigenous peoples.

The impacts on education, finances, spirituality, and lost family knowledge are vast, in addition to the generational wealth gap and intergenerational impacts of systemic discrimination against people of colour that create added barriers

The survivors of residential schools and their families, and anyone who witnessed the events that were happening, still feel the impacts today. Although there are efforts to help people heal by way of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and Pope Francis’s formal apology on April 1, 2022, for the Catholic Church's role in the Canadian Indian Residential School system, a history like this cannot be erased and the relationships will take years to rebuild and repair.

The College understands that this is an individual journey for people, and we are dedicated to continuing to create a welcoming environment that genuinely expresses consideration for all people. It is through awareness, education and discovery that we may have empathy and contribute to the healing journey of all those who have been impacted by the Indian Residential Schools.