In 2009, June was declared National Indigenous History Month in Canada following the passing of a unanimous motion in the House of Commons.
National Indigenous History month provides us with a time of reflection as we honour Indigenous culture, traditions, and contributions to society. It is an opportunity for us to observe, celebrate, and acknowledge the sacrifices, strength, accomplishments, and futures of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples in Canada.
This cannot be done without recognizing that Canada’s history has been marred by a legacy of racism and colonialism.
Generations of assimilation and segregation, as well as racist and colonial policies, saw Indigenous Peoples being physically removed from their lands on to reserves or into settlements. As a result, the distinct cultural practices, languages, and spirituality of Indigenous peoples have been historically outlawed, prohibited, or erased.
In celebrating National Indigenous History Month, we remember that this painful past provides a moment to recognize that the principles of Reconciliation are a pathway forward. This path requires our deepest commitment to engage, listen, and learn from our Indigenous UFCW members, their families, and their communities.
During the month of June, we pay special attention to two important days.
The first is June 11, the National Day of Reconciliation. On this date in 2008, the federal government issued a public apology for the creation of the Indian residential school system. Under this system, over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes and subjected to grave abuses at school. Shamefully, the last residential school was not closed until 1996.
Another important day is June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, which coincides with the summer solstice. On this day, we celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and significant contributions made by Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Taking a stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples supports an affirmative stance against colonial violence during and beyond the month of June. This National Indigenous History Month, let us recommit to working towards Reconciliation, and building a future based on equity, fairness, and inclusion for all Indigenous peoples in Canada.