Recognizing and Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

Date: June 21, 2019
To: University of Toronto Community Members
From: Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity

Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we recognize and celebrate the unique heritage and diverse cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We honour the people who have called this land home for thousands of years, and reflect on our relationships with Indigenous peoples and how we can continue to make positive advancements towards reconciliation.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity for each of us to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of the nation’s Indigenous peoples. The date of June 21 was chosen to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day as it corresponds with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time of year that many Indigenous groups have traditionally celebrated their culture and heritage. In 1996, the Governor General of Canada proclaimed that the federal government would recognize National Aboriginal Day on this date. In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the symbolic renaming to “National Indigenous Peoples Day,” coinciding with the preferred term to refer to the original inhabitants of what we now know as Canada.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is more than a celebration that we recognize once a year. It is a reminder for all of us to reflect on our roles and responsibilities in the path towards reconciliation and its intersections with our own practices. Reconciliation affects all of us. The truth must be heard and acknowledged to enable an active participation in decolonization. We all share the responsibility to critically understand and challenge forces of systemic oppression – whether by speaking up, or as in most cases, by listening. For many of us, this includes recognition of how our ancestors, as settlers, have contributed to these colonial legacies through our silences and actions.

At the University of Toronto, we remain committed to reconciliation. Our TRC Steering Committee’s Report, 2019 Indigenous Initiatives Annual Progress Report, which was produced as a direct response to the University’s Calls to Action (#33 and #34).

Today is a time for us to commemorate the important and ongoing positive impact Indigenous communities have made to our communities, our country, and the University of Toronto. I invite all members of our community to engage with these important Indigenous cultural celebrations. On behalf of the University, I wish you all a happy National Indigenous Peoples Day.