National Indigenous History Month

June 13, 2022

June is National Indigenous History Month (NIHM) and June 21st marks National Indigenous Peoples Day.  During this month, take time to recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across Canada.

The word “history” is a misconception that Indigenous peoples are only in the past; however, this is not the case as we are still around today. The use of National Indigenous Peoples Month is intended to understand not only our history, but present-day culture and knowledges. We use this time to celebrate the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. 

We are reminded that everything is connected. Indigenous people are connected to the lands, waters, sky and all life, and have their own sense of place. The connection to the land is an intimate experience.

You can learn more about the history, culture and language of the keepers of the land you live on. The FirstVoices website offers online language learning tools and mobile apps with a comprehensive collection of greetings and introductory phrases from Indigenous communities across Canada. You can increase your capacity for cultural understanding and empathy with resources that explore Indigenous perspectives on contemporary issues.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 and coincides with the summer solstice and the beginning of a season of berry picking and fishing, powwows and gatherings for the diverse Indigenous peoples in Canada. Traditionally, there are significant gatherings in Indigenous communities.

The Two Row Wampum is one of the oldest treaties between the Onkwehonweh of Turtle Island and the Europeans. The wampum symbolizes two paths or two vessels, travelling down the same river together. One vessel, a birchbark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs and their ways. The other ship will be for the white people and their laws, their customs and their ways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make compulsory laws nor interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other vessel.

The treaty was made in 1613 between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee as Dutch traders and settlers moved up the Hudson River into Mohawk territory. The Dutch initially proposed a patriarchal relationship with themselves as fathers and the Haudenosaunee people as children. According to Kanien’kehá:ka historian Ray Fadden, the Haudenosaunee rejected this.

The Haudenosaunee see the Two Row Wampum as a living treaty; a way that they have established for their people to live together in peace; that each nation will respect the ways of the other as they meet to discuss solutions to the issues that come before them. Let us be reminded of this as we celebrate on Sunday and beyond. We are fortunate to participate in and experience Indigenous cultures that continue to revitalize and thrive, despite centuries of oppression and poor relationship.

You can find First Nations experiences and education online or in person about Indigenous cultures and realities so that you are inspired to learn beyond the month of June.

Lenora Maracle
UNE National Equity Representative for Indigenous Members