June is when we celebrate National Indigenous History Month, a time for us to reflect on the ways that First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures have shaped our collective Canadian culture and identity over our shared history.
Indigenous peoples’ valued contributions to the environment, agriculture, the arts, traditions and way of life are viewed in the spotlight, offering other Canadians and visitors an opportunity to be educated—and to likewise help spread awareness. And of course, it also gives us the perfect excuse to travel and see the rest of our great country!
National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada
The month of celebration is highlighted by National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21st. Formerly known as National Aboriginal Day (until it was renamed in 2017), it coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. This is a special time for many indigenous groups across North America to celebrate within their communities.
Events are held throughout the country in June and beyond, so keep an eye out for them in your local community calendars. But if you do plan on combining indigenous cultural experiences with a bit of Canadian tourism, here are a few events worth travelling for!
Top indigenous festivals and events in Canada
1. Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival
June 20-23, 2019
Vincent Massey Park, Ottawa, ON
The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival holds celebrations right in the nation’s capital, with many family-friendly events centered on a performance stage and a pow wow. Other highlights include food-centric activities, including an Indigenous Chef Culinary Competition and a culinary arts pavilion, where you can sample indigenous-inspired cuisine and traditional teas.
2. Adäka Cultural Festival
June 28-July 4, 2019
Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, Whitehorse, YT
The Adäka Cultural Festival sheds light on the arts and culture of Yukon First Nations people—in fact, adäka in the Southern Tutchone language means “coming into the light”. The festival explores a central theme each year, with the idea of cultural riches “From the Land” being the focus for 2019. There are plenty of things to keep visitors busy in this weeklong festival, with cultural workshops, art, songs and storytelling.
3. Great Gathering of First Nations, Mashteuiatsh
July 12-14, 2019
Site de transmission culturelle ilnu Uashassihtsh, Mashteuiatsh, QC
The Grand rassemblement des Premières Nations (Great Gathering of First Nations) takes place at the beautiful lakefront Uashassihtsh Ilnu Cultural Learning Site, about a 3-hour drive north of Quebec City. There will be pow wow dances and drumming groups, traditional sports competitions, handicraft exhibits, First Nations dishes—including game roasted over an open fire.
4. Montreal First Peoples’ Festival
August 6-14, 2019
Place des Festivals, Montreal, QC
For nearly 3 decades, the Montreal First Peoples Festival, has highlighted indigenous culture throughout the world in a contemporary, multicultural setting. This weeklong celebration showcases work by local and international indigenous performers and artists, including documentary filmmakers. Events start at noon but the festival really comes alive at night!
5. Manito Ahbee Festival
The Manito Ahbee Festival is named after one of the most sacred, traditional indigenous gathering sites in North America. Manito Ahbee is derived from the Ojibwe term roughly meaning “where the Creator sits.” This sets the tone for the festival, where the Manito Ahbee International Pow Wow, the Indigenous Music Awards, a marketplace and trade show, and other events are held. This year’s festival took place on May 15-19, but be sure to mark your calendars for next spring.