With so many days and weeks of the year dedicated to so many different causes, it’s understandable when important commemorative dates pass us by.
One to bear in mind, however, is Aboriginal Awareness Week, which — in Canada — is celebrated May 22 to 25, and this year’s theme is “Looking back, moving forward.”
First Nations people across Canada face seemingly insurmountable challenges as we move into the 21st century.
While still healing from a painful history whereby their ancestors were deprived of their culture, language and traditions in Canada’s residential school system, the First Nations people of today now strive to overcome the poverty, addiction and poor health, which plague their communities as a result of that dark era in Canadian history, and reclaim those lost cultures, languages and traditions as their own.
We see great strides forward in the increasing number of First Nations students enrolling in school at a university level and going on to become masters in their field. And more often than not, these individuals return to their communities, bringing that knowledge and expertise with them for the benefit, healing and growth of their people.
One only needs to look at the mounting awareness around Aboriginal art to find evidence of the value placed on First Nations people’s cultural contribution to the modern-day Canadian identity.
And as First Nations communities speak out for their land management rights based on their traditional ways, they are becoming tomorrow’s leaders when it comes to stewardship of the land and its natural resources.
This year’s Aboriginal Awareness Week is a time to honour the many diverse Aboriginal cultures in our country, with a look back at the historical events that have shaped them while envisioning a great future for all Canadians, one defined by the significant role all have played in shaping Canada’s national development.