June is National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21

Photograph by Marissa Magneson

York University will mark National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. In addition to events around the Greater Toronto Area, the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS) at York University will be hosting an information table in the Vari Hall Rotunda. CASS will be in the rotunda from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Faculty, students and staff are welcome to drop by. The Summer 2019 Indigenous Student Success & Transition Assistant at CASS, Susan Ball, a first-year visual arts student, wrote the following story for YFile:

June 21 was chosen to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day because it corresponds to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time of year when many Indigenous peoples have traditionally celebrated their culture and heritage.

In 1996, the Governor General of Canada proclaimed that the federal government would recognize National Aboriginal Day on this date. In 2017, the name was officially changed to “National Indigenous Peoples Day.”

National Indigenous Peoples Day provides an opportunity for everyone to deepen their understanding and awareness of the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples as well as the achievement and contributions to Canada.

Canada’s Indigenous population is growing four times faster than rest of country. The 2011 Census shows 1,400,685 people had an Indigenous identity, representing 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian population. Indigenous people accounted for 3.8 per cent of the population enumerated in the 2006 Census, 3.3 per cent in the 2001 Census and 2.8 per cent in the 1996 Census.

The population increased by 232,385 people, or 20.1 per cent between 2006 and 2011, compared with 5.2 per cent for the non-Indigenous population. The Indigenous population is young with the median age of First Nations people at 26, followed by Métis at 31 and the Inuit median age at 23, the youngest of the three Indigenous groups.

The largest numbers of Indigenous people live in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Inuit people have the largest share of population in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

First Nations

There are 634 First Nations communities in Canada and more than 50 Indigenous languages spoken – an indication of the diversity of First Nations people across this country.

The number of First Nations people with registered or treaty Indian status rose by 30.8 per cent from 2006 to 2016. There were 744,855 First Nations people with registered or treaty Indian status in 2016, accounting for just over three-quarters (76.2 per cent) of the First Nations population. The other 23.8 per cent, which did not have registered or treaty Indian status, has grown by 75.1 per cent since 2006 to 232,375 people in 2016.

Among the 744,855 First Nations people with registered or treaty Indian status, 44.2 per cent lived on reserve in 2016, while the rest of the population lived off reserve. There was growth for both on reserve (+12.8 per cent) and off reserve (+49.1 per cent) First Nations populations from 2006 to 2016.


In 2011, 451,795 people identified as Métis and represented 32.3 per cent of the total Indigenous population and 1.4 per cent of the total Canadian population. Métis represented 8 per cent of the total population of the Northwest Territories, 6.7 per cent of Manitoba’s population, and 5.2 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population.

Winnipeg had the highest population of Métis, 46,325 people, or 6.5 per cent of its total population, followed by Edmonton with 31,780, Vancouver (18,485) and Calgary (17,040). In addition, 11,520 Métis lived in Saskatoon and 9,980 in Toronto in 2011.


In 2011, 59,445 people identified as Inuit and represented 4.2 per cent of the total Indigenous population and 0.2 per cent of the total Canadian population.

Almost three-quarters of Inuit in Canada lived in Inuit Nunangat which stretches from Labrador to the Northwest Territories and comprises four regions: Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit region.

Revitalization of Languages

UNESCO declared 2019 as International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness of the crucial role languages play in people’s daily lives. According to results from the 2016 Census, from 1996 to 2016 the total number of people in Canada who were able to speak an Indigenous language went up by eight per cent.

Events around Toronto

The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto will be celebrating Indigenous History Month at Yonge and Dundas Square on Wednesday, June 26 from noon to 8 p.m. To learn more, visit https://ncct.on.ca/indigenous-history-month-celebration/.

Celebrate Indigenous culture during the Indigenous Arts Festival and the Na-Me-Res Traditional Pow Wow at Fort York on June 21 to 23. To learn more, visit https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/festivals-events/indigenous-arts-festival/.

The Toronto Zoo has events to highlight Indigenous Peoples Day during the weekend of June 21 to 23. To learn more, visit http://www.torontozoo.com/events/?pg=Indigenous&dt=2019-06-21#evt.