By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

[email protected]

June is a great opportunity to learn about Indigenous heritage and culture since it is National Indigenous History Month, with June 21 highlighted as Indigenous Peoples Day.

This is a day when First Nations, Inuit and Métis people recognize and celebrate their heritage.

It was originally called National Aboriginal Day in 1996. This day was announced by Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through proclamation with support from various Indigenous groups. 

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau renamed National Aboriginal Day and replaced it with National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

But of all days, why the 21st day of the month?  They chose this day because it’s the day of the summer solstice — the longest day of the year, symbolizing a new season of life for many Indigenous Peoples. 

“It was something that is a growing up to the heart of truth and reconciliation,” said Sharon Wass, a member of the Métis Nation of B.C.

Like many Indigenous Peoples, Wass grew up without any real personal identity. 

“When I was young, I envied other kids because I knew that they had their national costumes and national dances, but I don’t,” Wass explained. “This day is important because you’re not going to develop an understanding of where people are from and what their beliefs are unless you start to recognize them.” 

Jennifer Pratschke, a settlement worker from Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, has a chance to go to her son’s class at an Elder’s home to spend the day learning their culture and identity.

“I hope to move forward with truth and reconciliation by learning more about this place that we all love and call home,” said Pratschke.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated for only a day, but Wass believes it should be celebrated every day to move forward in truth and reconciliation. 

“We honour those truths every single day,” Wass noted.