June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, and a focal point of Indigenous History Month.
In 2021 we observe this day with a particular grief, as we mourn those children whose bodies were found in a mass unmarked grave at the site of a former Residential School in Kamloops. We grieve for the parents who never got to see those children come home from Residential School. We grieve for the generations of indigenous people who suffered, and still suffer, great trauma from the Residential School system. We grieve for our country, which will never be whole while the hard work of truth and reconciliation remains ahead of us.
We try at the same time, however, to use this day to celebrate the rich and beautiful lives of Indigenous people, their culture, history, art, wisdom, and more. We celebrate our First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples as Canadians. And most of all, together we celebrate our shared humanity.
June is National Indigenous History Month, highlighted by National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. Visit us in the school library, live or online, and join with us as we celebrate and learn more about First Nations, Inuit and Metis history.
Today the people of British Columbia observe Louis Riel Day. The government of BC and the Métis people of the province have expressed a “commitment to work together for the betterment of Métis people throughout British Columbia.” (source.) As a symbol of this, the province has declared November 16 to be Louis Riel Day, in honour of the historical hero of the Métis people.
Louis Riel led the Métis in the Red River Rebellion and the North-West Rebellion of the late 19th Century. Riel was captured, tried and found guilty of treason, and was executed by the Canadian government on November 16, 1885. Even then his death was extremely divisive. Not only did the Métis express outrage at the execution of their leader, so too did many French Canadians who saw Riel as a champion of the rights of French speakers in Canada. In the years since his death many have come to see Riel as a hero, a symbol of resistance against the oppression of the indigenous people of this land, and as the champion of the Métis.