We need to be heard. You see the voice that is prominent across this world is one of isolation and fear, it teaches hate and contempt. If we allow it to be the only voice then soon there will be no room for any other voices. We must stand and our voice of unity and inclusiveness must be heard.“— Chief R. Stacey Laforme, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation

Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber both operate on the traditional and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit. As such, both students and staff are responsible for recognizing, celebrating and self-educating on the heritage of this Indigenous community.

June is National Indigenous History Month—so, what better time to continue the conversation?

What is National Indigenous History Month?

Celebrated every June, National Indigenous History Month honours the culture, heritage and legacy of Indigenous peoples across Canada and beyond.

History

In 1982, the Assembly of First Nations (which, at the time, was called the National Indian Brotherhood) began to call for the creation of a “National Aboriginal Solidarity Day” on June 21—the goal of which was to acknowledge and revere the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Quebec became the first province to officially recognize National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in 1990.

The push for Canada to establish an official holiday appreciating Indigenous culture grew in the early 1990s following poignant instances of governmental discrimination against Indigenous peoples, such as the Oka Crisis and the Ipperwash Crisis. In 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples commissioned the federal Government to establish a “National First Peoples Day.” Its request was echoed by Elijah Harper‘s Sacred Assembly.

The following year, Governor General Roméo LeBlanc voiced the Government’s objective to commemorate Indigenous culture. Canada celebrated its first National Aboriginal Day on June 21, 1996.

June was not declared National Aboriginal History Month until 2009, one year after former prime minister Stephen Harper‘s official apology for the Canadian Indian residential school system.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau changed the holiday’s name to National Indigenous History Month in response to a widespread preference for the term “Indigenous” over the term “Aboriginal.”

Indigenous Peoples of Canada

There are three recognized Indigenous Peoples in Canada:

  • Inuit are an Indigenous people who live primarily in the North—especially in northern Quebec, northern Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

  • Métis are people with a mixture of Indigenous and European ancestry. While the term “Métis” was originally coined to describe people with one Indigenous parent and one European parent, its definition has expanded to describe the collective of distinct cultures and ethnic identities these communities developed. In 2002, the Métis National Council declared the following definition:

“A person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.”

  • First Nations refers to Indigenous people who are not Métis or Inuit and who are the original inhabitants of the land now called Canada.

The term “Indigenous” describes a person from any of these groups, and National Indigenous History Month celebrates all of them.

Why is it important?

Between 1831 and 1996, the Canadian Government and the Catholic Church operated residential schools throughout Canada. These institutions had one main objective: to systemically erase the cultural identities of Indigenous children through assimilation.

As a result, many of the sacred practices, languages and spiritualities of Indigenous Peoples in Canada were wiped out. The ones that weren’t were outlawed or abolished. National Indigenous History Month is vital to preserve existing Indigenous culture and work to reclaim the stolen aspects of Indigenous identities.

For non-Indigenous people, this month serves as a time to reflect on the ways in which they have contributed to Canada’s tradition of anti-Indigenous racism and to appreciate Indigenous culture.

Self-education is a good place to start.

Where can I learn more?

Humber Indigenous Education & Engagement (IE&E), formerly known as the Aboriginal Resource Centre, is an on-campus organization that assists Indigenous students with the transition into college life by connecting them to their culture and traditions.

It also strengthens the Humber and UofGH community by engaging non-Aboriginal students and staff with Aboriginal customs.

A white, slightly ajar door dons a small black sign with the number "2137" printed on it in white. Below the black sign is a slightly larger sign that reads, "Welcome to the Aboriginal Resource Centre. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday."

In short, it’s your most valuable resource for connecting with your campus’ cultural history.

To get involved with IE&E, send a message through their website or follow along with their virtual programming and events such as the Annual Indigenous Awards Gala, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Uplift Indigenous voices—not only during National Indigenous History Month, but every day.


Want more ways to get involved? Check out these on-campus services that are available remotely.

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