The Nation’s annual roundup of ways to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

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This June 21 marks Canada’s first official National Indigenous Peoples Day. Of course, it’s not a new day, nor a statutory holiday – just a name for a day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the name-change announcement during last year’s National Aboriginal Day. He also took the time to re-name Langevin Block, the office that sits across Parliament Hill and houses the executive branch of the federal government.

Trudeau says he did so because of Hector-Louis Langevin’s role in establishing the residential-school system. And while some will take the word “Indigenous” over “Aboriginal” any day, and agree that people responsible for generations of suffering shouldn’t be honoured, it feels like another empty symbolic gesture in a long line of empty symbolic gestures.

It’s been a tough year for Indigenous people in Canada, not unlike any other year. The verdicts in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine court cases linger as a reminder that racism, systemic or otherwise, is alive and well in this country.

Now, Trudeau’s Liberals, with $4.5B of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars, have purchased a pipeline project in direct conflict with many First Nations whose traditional territories will be affected by it.
But in the face of these cynical politics, it’s important to remember that in spite of them (current and historic) Indigenous people are still here. That alone is something worth celebrating. And we here at the Nation hope that’s exactly what you do this Indigenous Peoples Day. Celebrate the resilience, strength and beauty that is Indigenous culture.

And with that, here are some ways to celebrate.

Down South

Indigenous Peoples Day Live

This year, APTN’s Indigenous Peoples Day Live (IDL) will span three stages across Eastern Canada June 23. The live, five-hour event will be on television, radio and online and will be broadcast simultaneously from Ottawa’s Massey Park, Toronto’s Fort York and The Forks in Winnipeg.

In each city, the concert begins in the evening and is precluded by a non-televised day of events including a sunrise ceremony in the morning, a powwow in the afternoon and lots more.

During the powwow portion of the day, each city will simultaneously participate in a Round Dance and broadcast live on APTN.

National host and former Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull will be broadcasting live from Winnipeg throughout the concerts and will be joined on the main stage at The Forks by up-and-coming acts like hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids, the Vancouver-based indie-folk-pop group Sister Says, as well as Attawapiskat’s own Midnight Shine.

The day’s largest concert will take place in Toronto where host Grace Dove (The Revenant) will welcome performers like rapper Kardinal Offishall, Six Nations’ Logan Staats, and the 2016 JUNO Indigenous Album of the Year winners, Quantum Tangle.

Be sure to tune in if you can’t make it to one of the IDL stages.


On June 21 at noon in Old Montreal, Terre en Vues and the Montreal First Peoples’ Festival will hold a ceremony to highlight and honour Indigenous Peoples from across the province.

The event will host speakers and performances from a diverse group of Indigenous individuals and artists and will take place in the presence of First Nations leaders. A sacred fire will be set up to mark the day of celebrations.

“This will be an opportunity to assert our will to see a permanent cultural centre built in Montreal as ambassador of the Indigenous cultures,” said Henry Welsh, Terre en Vues’ media-relations director.  “We shall mobilize all the communities in this goal.”

A full list of speakers and performers will be announced in the coming weeks.


Hosted on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in Ottawa will take place June 21-24 and is partnered with IDL and the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association.

On June 21 the festival hosts an education day, welcoming 5000 students from the surrounding areas to the grounds of Massey Park to learn about different Indigenous cultures and peoples through a rotating line-up of workshops and cultural events. That evening, there will be a free public screening of Indian Horse in the park.

The festival will host a powwow June 23-24, and though they will be sharing Massey Park with IDL, there will be an alternate concert at the Solstice Festival’s Celebration Stage with a full line-up of performers and storytellers to be announced in the coming days.

If you’re looking to make the trip, the festival recommends the Rideau Heights Campground, or the Wesley Clover Parks Campground.

Up North


On June 21, the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre (VDNFC) invites the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from Val-d’Or and surrounding areas to a grand gathering based on cross-cultural understanding and the recognition of First Peoples’ contribution to Val-d’Or’s cultural and community life.

Hosted at their cultural site Kinawit, located on 255 Chemin des Scouts, the celebrations begin at 5 am with a sunrise ceremony. In the afternoon, the VDNFC will host a cultural ceremony at the Kijaté social housing site before returning to the Kinawit site for an afternoon of performances, vendors and traditional food tasting.

If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out!


Initially, the Chibougamau Eenou Friendship Centre had hoped to inaugurate their new centre on June 21. But according to the centre’s executive director, Jo-Ann Toulouse, they decided in late May to postpone the opening.

Instead, they will inaugurate the new building in August and tie-in some of the festivities that were planned for Indigenous Peoples Day then.

“It will very much be a day of awareness and celebrations,” said Toulouse of this year’s June 21 event. “But it will be on a smaller scale than what we’ve been doing on Aboriginal Day for the past 35 years.”

With input from their Elders, they’ve decided to move the annual walking-out ceremony to June 23 but are still encouraging people to come and celebrate. The centre will later announce a revised plan for Indigenous Peoples Day.


Happy Indigenous Peoples Day from all of us here at the Nation!

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