National Aboriginal Day (now National Indigenous Peoples Day) was announced in 1996 by then-Governor General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc through a proclamation declaring June 21 of each year as National Aboriginal Day.
But throughout the month of June, the Government of Canada declared National Indigenous History Month “a time for learning about, appreciating and acknowledging the contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have made in shaping Canada.”
Gord Downie, the late frontman of the band The Tragically Hip, along with his brother Mike Downie and the Chanie Wenjack families created The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund in 2016.
Inspired by Wenjack’s story and Downie’s call to build a better Canada, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
To commemorate National Indigenous History Month in 2020, the Downie Wenjack Fund (DWF) had plans for several live events in Halifax, Winnipeg and Toronto, featuring Indigenous artists speakers and elders.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the series of concerts went virtual with the last one scheduled on June 30 through Facebook and Youtube.
“With weather like this, the beauty of this country, you should be thinking about Indigenous people,” said Mike Downie.
“You should be thinking about people who have been here for a very, very long time and who we gave a very bad deal to over the last 200 years or so.
“I’d like to think that every month is time for growing Indigenous awareness. Certainly in June, it’s time to show the gratitude you have for this country.”
The June 30 event featured performances by William Prince, Crystal Shawanda, Wolf Saga, G.R. Gritt, DJ Shub, Rebecca Thomas, and youth leader and hoop dancer Theland Kicknosway.
“When we talk about that word, reconciliation and what it means to me, reconciliation is about understanding the truth of my people, the different sufferings and the hardships they have encountered,” said Kicknosway.