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National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, formerly called National Aboriginal Day, is annually held on June 21 to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of the nation’s Aboriginal peoples. There are three Aboriginal groups in Canada – the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Traditional dancing, music and festivals are part of the National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in Canada.
Traditional dancing, music and festivals are part of the National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in Canada.
©iStockphoto.com/zennie

What Do People Do?

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day gives many people the chance to learn more about Aboriginal people and their contributions towards the country’s development and progress. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people have the opportunity to showcase their cultures and achievements throughout Canada on this day.

National Indigenous Peoples Day events are held in every region across Canada. Activities and events include (but are not limited to):

  • Summer solstice festivals.
  • Barbecue fundraisers.
  • Social networking gatherings with traditional and contemporary music, dance and singing.
  • Sacred fire extinguishing ceremonies.
  • Traditional feasts, which may include fry bread and moose stew.
  • The cutting of a cake to honor National Indigenous Peoples Day.

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada gives people of all walks of life the opportunity to celebrate and share knowledge about the Aboriginal peoples’ values, customs, languages, and culture.

Public Life

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a paid holiday for employees in the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, except those in the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association (NWTTA). It is not a statutory holiday in other parts of Canada. Traffic and parking conditions may be affected in areas where there are large celebrations to commemorate the day.

Background

The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal peoples: Indians (First Nations), Inuit, and Métis. Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.

Many people have pushed for a national day to recognize and celebrate Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and cultures prior to 1996. For example, in 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. In 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended a National First Peoples Day to be designated. The Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Aboriginal peoples.

Canada’s governor general proclaimed the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996. In cooperation with Aboriginal organizations, the Canadian government chose June 21 for National Aboriginal Day because it was on or near the June solstice. Many of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day for many generations. The event provides an opportunity to acknowledge the unique achievements of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in fields as diverse as agriculture, the environment, business, and the arts.

In 2018, the day was officially renamed from National Aboriginal Day to National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Note: Any mention of summer in this article refers to summer in the northern hemisphere. Moreover, timeanddate.com wishes to thank Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for the background information regarding National Indigenous Peoples Day.

National Indigenous Peoples Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
MonJun 212010National Aboriginal DayObservance 
MonJun 212010National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
TueJun 212011National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
TueJun 212011National Aboriginal DayObservance 
ThuJun 212012National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
ThuJun 212012National Aboriginal DayObservance 
FriJun 212013National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
FriJun 212013National Aboriginal DayObservance 
SatJun 212014National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
SatJun 212014National Aboriginal DayObservance 
SunJun 212015National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
SunJun 212015National Aboriginal DayObservance 
TueJun 212016National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories
TueJun 212016National Aboriginal DayObservance 
WedJun 212017National Aboriginal DayObservance 
WedJun 212017National Aboriginal DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories, Yukon
ThuJun 212018National Indigenous Peoples DayObservance 
ThuJun 212018National Indigenous Peoples DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories, Yukon
FriJun 212019National Indigenous Peoples DayObservance 
FriJun 212019National Indigenous Peoples DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories, Yukon
SunJun 212020National Indigenous Peoples DayObservance 
SunJun 212020National Indigenous Peoples DayLocal holidayNorthwest Territories, Yukon

Quick Facts

National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates Canada’s Indigenous culture and the achievements made by the country’s indigenous peoples.

National Indigenous Peoples Day 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018
Thursday, June 21, 2018 (local in Northwest Territories, Yukon)

National Indigenous Peoples Day 2019

Friday, June 21, 2019
Friday, June 21, 2019 (local in Northwest Territories, Yukon)

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
National Indigenous Peoples DayEnglish
Journée nationale des peuples AutochtonesFrench
National Indigenous Peoples DayGerman

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in June 2018 in Canada

United Nation Holiday on June 21, 2018

Fun Holiday on June 21, 2018

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