Throughout the month of June I’ve been tweeting what the day of the week is called in various Canadian First Nations and Inuit languages. Well, today is June 21 and it is also National Aboriginal Day in Canada.
The histories of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples tell us of peoples with cultures and societies as complex, insightful, and unique as any in the world. These histories are not just of those peoples, but of Canada, and of our shared today.
On the National Aboriginal Day website it says, “[Today] is a special day to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.” While we strive to do that today, I think it is also important to think about connecting with Aboriginal history, culture and achievements in a meaningful way, every day. For some Canadians, it may feel as if the Aboriginal peoples in Canada are another culture—that the study of their histories and cultures can seem like studying the history and culture of a group in a far-away land, or in a time long-past. But this is wrong, and those histories, cultures, and heritages are those of the peoples who were here, on the land where I am writing this, and likely on the land where you’re reading this, and indeed on the land across what is today the nation of Canada.
We therefore owe it to ourselves, to the Aboriginal peoples here, and indeed to Canada as a collective whole of all of us, Aboriginal and not, to know about the history of our land, and of the peoples who were here, and still are.
I would like to suggest, in the spirit of National Aboriginal Day, that you learn about the people(s) who share, and shared, the land you are sitting on right now. And, as this is the page of a Language Museum, that you learn something about a language they speak.
For example, as I write this I am in my childhood (and parents’) home in Sarnia, Ontario. The land I am sitting on is that of the Niswi-mishkodewin, or Peoples of the Three Fires. These are the nations of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. So I have challenged myself to learn some Anishinaabe (or Ojibwe) today, and in so doing also learn about the cultures, and histories of those nations.
So that is a little challenge I’d like to put to you today. If you’re reading this you likely love language, and you likely have something warm in your heart for Canada too, and I can’t think of a greater way to marry those two loves than by learning a bit of one of the many languages of one of the many First Nations, Inuit, or Métis peoples who live, and have lived, in Canada.
So, miigwech (“thanks “) and giga-waabamin menawaa (“see you later”).
Ganawenindiwag (“take care of each other”),