National Indigenous History Month

Jun 07, 2023

June is National Indigenous History Month throughout Canada. It was first designated Aboriginal History Month in 2009, later renamed Indigenous history Month in 2017.

While we also commemorate Mi’kmaq History Month in October in Nova Scotia, June continues to act as an important opportunity to educate one another on the lives, cultures, stories and traditions of the first people of Mi’kma’ki , and Indigenous, Inuit and Metis communities throughout Turtle Island (Canada). June 21 is recognized as National Indigenous Persons Day throughout Canada, falling on the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice.

This year Nova Scotia will host the North American Indigenous Games for the first time, from July 15-23. This is a unique and momentous occasion for celebration, and as we take part in events and learning opportunities throughout June and July, we should do so with pride in our L’nu communities, celebrating their talent, resilience, and willingness to share their teachings.

National Indigenous History Month is an opportunity to affirm the basic human rights of Indigenous communities, to reflect on the historic and contemporary injustices they have endured and continue to face, such as colonization, assimilation, institutionalization, and systemic discrimination.

By acknowledging this history and the lived experiences of generations of Indigenous people, we send a powerful message that the voices, rights, and dignity of the generations of Indigenous persons harmed and silenced do indeed matter. Recognizing the struggles and the immense strength of Indigenous communities allow us to engage in work toward reconciliation, beginning with education, and address ongoing challenges and create a more equitable society for all.

Celebrating National Indigenous History Month strengthens social cohesion by promoting understanding, empathy, and unity among all residents of Turtle Island. By learning about the diverse Indigenous cultures, traditions, and languages protected by knowledge keepers and now being reintroduced to young Indigenous people, we can deepen our appreciation for the rich tapestry of our nation and give support where required. Such understanding helps break down barriers, dispel stereotypes, and build bridges between our communities.

By embracing and valuing Indigenous cultures, we foster an inclusive society where everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Indigenous knowledge and perspectives play a crucial role in promoting environmental sustainability. Indigenous people have a deep connection to the land and possess traditional ecological knowledge accumulated over centuries. Recognizing and respecting their stewardship practices can lead to sustainable approaches for resource management, conservation, and climate action. By integrating Indigenous wisdom and practices into environmental policies and practices, we can forge a more harmonious relationship with the natural world and work towards a sustainable future.

Throughout the month of June, into July, and throughout the year, I invite all Nova Scotians to find opportunities to get involved, engage with L’nu communities in your region and elsewhere in Mi’kma’ki and commit to supporting efforts to foster truth through reconciliAction. By doing so, we can promote a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society for present and future generations.

Cheryl Knockwood is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a lawyer, identifies as two-spirit, and currently works for the Membertou First Nation as its governance coordinator. She has taught Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Cape Breton University.

What can you do to celebrate the month?