June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 14, 2021

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. National Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly National Aboriginal Day) was announced in 1996 through a proclamation by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc. The proclamation was signed after consultations with various Indigenous groups. June 21, the summer solstice, was selected due to its cultural significance for many Indigenous peoples and communities.

Last month, we all learned the terrible news of the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the lands of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia. Since this tragic news broke, other bodies have been found near former residential schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of the largest residential schools in Canada and these deaths are believed to have been undocumented until their recent discovery. A six-year investigation into the residential school system found more than 4,100 children died while attending residential school. However, we now know that number does not truly reflect how many children passed away while at these schools.

These schools were run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to as recent as the 1990s. In 2008, the federal government apologized for the system, but an apology is not enough. Some Indigenous communities still do not have clean drinking water. Indigenous people still face oppression and systemic barriers. This is not a dark chapter in history, this is the reality of today.

ONA supports and recognizes the unique experiences of the Indigenous nurses in our union, and we strive to create space and support for them through the Members of Indigenous Descent Caucus Group. This group meets at our Human Rights and Equity Caucus each year. ONA member Susan Archibald shared her personal experiences as an Indigenous woman facing discrimination in the health-care system with the team.

Indigenous peoples in Canada have faced historic oppression and systemic barriers that hinder their access to high-quality, well-funded public services, including health care. Advocating for access to high-quality health care for all means supporting and recognizing the unique experiences of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis nurses in our union.

We encourage all of our members to take the time to engage with Indigenous cultural celebrations, be willing to learn, but also reflect on the issues faced by Indigenous communities and the intersection with your practice.


We encourage ONA members, family, and friends to join us and other allies in celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our members and the public must refrain from attending live events, such as parades and rallies. We will post information about virtual events as it is available.

See below for details about National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020 events:

  • Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival (SSIF) Virtual Edition: The 2021 edition of the SSIF brings Indigenous artists, vendors, and performers together online to celebrate, educate and build connections.

ONA Resources:

ONA is committed to being an inclusive and equitable organization that recognizes membership diversity. Visit our Human Rights & Equity webpage to learn about the work being done by our Human Rights & Equity Team, contact team members, and to access valuable resources.

Check out our updated FAQ guides for ONA members and leaders to help recognize and deal with human rights issues including racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Watch ONA's "Human Rights and Equity Caucus" video and learn more about the role we play in promoting equity and diversity for our members in the workplace and in the Union.

More Resources:

Click here for more information about National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Check out the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association's (CINA) Twitter account for the latest news and issues impacting Canada's Indigenous nurses and the health-care system. You can also visit their website here.

Visit the Canadian Nurses Association website for resources and information on Indigenous Health in Canada.

CBC News interviewed Indigenous nurses on their unique experiences. They spoke about the need to increase the number of Indigenous nurses to change the health-care system and fight against discrepancies between the health care provided to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Click here for the complete article.

For more information about advocacy for First Nations peoples in Canada, see the website for the Assembly of First Nations.

Check out the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada website to learn about advocacy to support access and opportunities for First Nations children and youth. They also have a page dedicated to COVID-19 resources.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published 94 Calls to Action on how to commit to reconciliation at all levels of governance.

To learn more about the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples down load a digital copy of one of the books from  by reading a digital copy of one the books from the #IndigenousReads reading list or by exploring a virtual museum exhibit, such as:




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National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020 video