Across Canada, the province and throughout many communities in Labrador, June 21 is a very important day. National Aboriginal Day was held on June 21, as this is the first day of summer and the summer solstice - which has been officially recorded by weather experts as the longest day of the year - and chosen for its important symbolism to many aboriginal peoples.
The summer solstice (had to look this one up myself, as I was only generally aware of the facts, thanks Wikipedia) occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis - in either the northern or the southern hemisphere - is most inclined toward the sun that it orbits.
Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is at approximately 23 degrees and 26 minutes. This is important here because the sun now at this point reaches its highest position in the sky, thus making daylight long and nighttime hours very short.
When I was a little younger and in my social clubbing days, I recall walking home say around 4 a.m. and the sun would be coming up. Sorry mum to cause worry some days.
For most aboriginal people, summer is a wonderful joyous time of the year. The snow has finally disappeared, the ground is thawed out, warm temperatures have returned, flowers are beginning to bloom and leafs have returned to the deciduous trees (get the picture folks)!
In addition to these natural occurrences, aboriginal people have and continue to depend on the land for many basic things. Summer allows herbs to be harvested for food as well as medicinal purposes, crops to be planted and fish to be caught and dried. It is a season of new beginning.
In my opinion, and stance on this topic, this is indeed a new beginning for many people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal - but there is one thing for sure: we all look forward to the long days of summer.
National Aboriginal Day marks the official day of national celebration that publically recognizes and honours the valuable contributions to Canadian society by Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.
The federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada proudly defines and proclaims "aboriginal peoples as the descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada."
The Canadian constitution (Section 35, 1982) further recognizes three groups of aboriginal people and here in Labrador they include First Nations (more commonly referred to as the Innu Nation), the Labrador Inuit (Nunasiavut) and the Labrador Metis (NunatuKavut).
Further to that, according to Statistics Canada and the provincial Department of Labrador Affairs, Labrador has a total population of about 27,000 people with aboriginal groups comprising an estimated 37 per cent.
From my perspective and experience, this number is probably much higher as it does not include those who self-identify and those aboriginal people who may not be registered with any particular group.
In Labrador, like many places in Canada, volunteer groups and organizers commemorated the day by participating in beautiful official ceremonies and celebrations that highlight cultural performers, activities, displays of arts and crafts and many other exciting events that recognize the contributions that aboriginal people have made to our country.
Here in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, although the weather was not the best (five days of steady rain and drizzle prior to), the local organizing committee put off an enjoyable event at the local College of the North Atlantic gymnasium and was attended by many of the general public. A huge thank you and congratulations to all those involved in the planning and delivery of this most important day.
- Stan Oliver writes from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org