Reflections on National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity for everyone to celebrate Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples. Six senators share their thoughts on what it means to them.

Senator Michèle Audette
Senator Michèle Audette

Kuei! Hello!

During National Indigenous History Month, I invite you to stimulate all your senses with Indigenous culture. Take in the sights of both traditional and modern First Peoples artwork by artists such as Tivi Etook, who comes from Kangiqsualujjuaq — the same village as Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada — Frank Polson, Ernest Dominique and many others. Let yourself be enchanted by the sounds of Elisapie, Scott-Pien Picard, or a rap by Samian or Q-052 and many others. Let yourself be intoxicated by the distinct olfactory notes of Sequoia or Akua Nature’s essential oils and so on. Treat your taste buds at a table at Sagamité, or with Délices Boréales’ collection of Inuit herbal teas. Treat your eyes to a book by Naomi Fontaine, Michel Jean, Jean Sioui and many more. Visiting Indigenous communities and attending pow wows are wonderful ways of discovering their rich heritage.

Tasting, reading, listening, smelling, observing and sharing are all ways of discovering other cultures.


Senator Dan Christmas
Senator Dan Christmas

National Indigenous History Month is an opportunity for all Canadians, not only to learn about the rich heritage Indigenous people bring to Canada but to personally contribute to achieving true reconciliation between this country and First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Our story is robust and predates Canada by millennia. It’s a compelling journey filled with moments of inspiration, peace and friendship intertwined with tragedy, sorrow, pain and heartbreak — and yet, we remain on the cusp of a brighter future for our people: our children, our youth, our Elders, our mothers and grandmothers.

Key to achieving this is the involvement of all of us in sharing the story, learning the truth about the past and determining to be a part of a shared future, working together to benefit Indigenous peoples and to affirm their role in the fabric of Canadian society with dignity and respect.

To learn more about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, you’re invited to read the 2019 report of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples called How Did We Get Here? A concise, unvarnished account of the history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.


Senator Brian Francis
Senator Brian Francis

During National Indigenous History Month, we honour and celebrate the strength, beauty and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. That we are still here after centuries of forced assimilation and other forms of genocide is a testament to our continued resistance and resilience. This month, I encourage my brothers and sisters to find pride in who we are, where we come from and what we are working towards. At the same time, I call on non-Indigenous Canadians to learn more about, and take responsibility for, the true history of this country and its relationship with, and treatment of, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. The journey towards truth, justice, healing and reconciliation has only just begun. We must work actively together to make tangible changes as well as to build stronger relationships with each other and the land. Msit No’kmaq.


Senator Marty Klyne
Senator Marty Klyne

Each year National Indigenous History Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate our history, heritage and diversity. It is a time to reflect, a time to learn and a time to honour those who came before us.

Indigenous history is Canadian history, and the road to reconciliation is an integral part of charting our nation’s future as we affirm our commitment to each other, to animal welfare and conservation, to our land and its astonishing ecosystems that support life, and to respecting the diversity of cultures, ceremony and languages that make this country unique and the best place to live and coexist.

Today’s Indigenous youth have an important role in helping all of us understand the importance of celebrating our past. Indigenous youth are the innovators, creators, leaders and activists who are shaping our country’s future, and it is only with a full understanding of our past that they will be able to build a better tomorrow. I invite all Canadians to celebrate Indigenous History Month, and to learn more about our shared heritage.


Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson
Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson

June is National Indigenous History Month — an opportunity for all Canadians to learn not only about how our colonial history has affected Indigenous peoples, but to also better understand the many important contributions of Indigenous people to the economic, political, social and cultural fabric of Canada. I hope every Canadian has an opportunity to attend one of the hundreds of community celebrations for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 to experience and celebrate the survival and resurgence of Indigenous cultures and languages.


Senator Mary Jane McCallum
Senator Mary Jane McCallum

I wanted to share some moments in my life that provide a history of the role and importance of Voice. 

Voice was one of the first freedoms removed from former students of residential school.  This occurred both literally and metaphorically. In the literal sense, my language was forcibly removed from me and from the other students. We were forced to communicate in a language we did not know or understand; a language that was not our own. We were subsequently punished if we were caught speaking in our mother tongue. Due to the act of having this foreign language thrust upon us, I existed in a vacuum of being Voiceless.

From a metaphorical standpoint, I was rendered Voiceless because upon entering residential school I was stripped of my self-determination and autonomy. My thoughts and opinions were not sought or valued. I was directed in how to dress, how to act and how to think. My Voice, as my identity and as a symbol of my agency, was silenced. What was the effect? 

The impacts of having Voice — or not having Voice — are profound. Voice carries with it one’s dreams, thoughts, actions, goals, ideas. Voice can be seen in how one dresses, how they wear their hair, how they carry themselves in their posture. Voice can be robust as in compliments or reprimands, or it can be meek as in gratitude or shame. 

When I allow myself to limit my Voice, I am allowing the limiting of my thoughts, my ideas, my brilliance and my spirituality.

What message, then, do I have for youth? Don’t let anyone, including loved ones, limit the autonomy and power of your Voice. Be bold, for boldness carries with it creativity and genius. Now is the time to allow your Voice to be heard confidently and proudly so that we can know – and celebrate – your creativity and genius.

Reflections on National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity for everyone to celebrate Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples. Six senators share their thoughts on what it means to them.

Senator Michèle Audette
Senator Michèle Audette

Kuei! Hello!

During National Indigenous History Month, I invite you to stimulate all your senses with Indigenous culture. Take in the sights of both traditional and modern First Peoples artwork by artists such as Tivi Etook, who comes from Kangiqsualujjuaq — the same village as Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada — Frank Polson, Ernest Dominique and many others. Let yourself be enchanted by the sounds of Elisapie, Scott-Pien Picard, or a rap by Samian or Q-052 and many others. Let yourself be intoxicated by the distinct olfactory notes of Sequoia or Akua Nature’s essential oils and so on. Treat your taste buds at a table at Sagamité, or with Délices Boréales’ collection of Inuit herbal teas. Treat your eyes to a book by Naomi Fontaine, Michel Jean, Jean Sioui and many more. Visiting Indigenous communities and attending pow wows are wonderful ways of discovering their rich heritage.

Tasting, reading, listening, smelling, observing and sharing are all ways of discovering other cultures.


Senator Dan Christmas
Senator Dan Christmas

National Indigenous History Month is an opportunity for all Canadians, not only to learn about the rich heritage Indigenous people bring to Canada but to personally contribute to achieving true reconciliation between this country and First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Our story is robust and predates Canada by millennia. It’s a compelling journey filled with moments of inspiration, peace and friendship intertwined with tragedy, sorrow, pain and heartbreak — and yet, we remain on the cusp of a brighter future for our people: our children, our youth, our Elders, our mothers and grandmothers.

Key to achieving this is the involvement of all of us in sharing the story, learning the truth about the past and determining to be a part of a shared future, working together to benefit Indigenous peoples and to affirm their role in the fabric of Canadian society with dignity and respect.

To learn more about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, you’re invited to read the 2019 report of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples called How Did We Get Here? A concise, unvarnished account of the history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.


Senator Brian Francis
Senator Brian Francis

During National Indigenous History Month, we honour and celebrate the strength, beauty and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. That we are still here after centuries of forced assimilation and other forms of genocide is a testament to our continued resistance and resilience. This month, I encourage my brothers and sisters to find pride in who we are, where we come from and what we are working towards. At the same time, I call on non-Indigenous Canadians to learn more about, and take responsibility for, the true history of this country and its relationship with, and treatment of, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. The journey towards truth, justice, healing and reconciliation has only just begun. We must work actively together to make tangible changes as well as to build stronger relationships with each other and the land. Msit No’kmaq.


Senator Marty Klyne
Senator Marty Klyne

Each year National Indigenous History Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate our history, heritage and diversity. It is a time to reflect, a time to learn and a time to honour those who came before us.

Indigenous history is Canadian history, and the road to reconciliation is an integral part of charting our nation’s future as we affirm our commitment to each other, to animal welfare and conservation, to our land and its astonishing ecosystems that support life, and to respecting the diversity of cultures, ceremony and languages that make this country unique and the best place to live and coexist.

Today’s Indigenous youth have an important role in helping all of us understand the importance of celebrating our past. Indigenous youth are the innovators, creators, leaders and activists who are shaping our country’s future, and it is only with a full understanding of our past that they will be able to build a better tomorrow. I invite all Canadians to celebrate Indigenous History Month, and to learn more about our shared heritage.


Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson
Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson

June is National Indigenous History Month — an opportunity for all Canadians to learn not only about how our colonial history has affected Indigenous peoples, but to also better understand the many important contributions of Indigenous people to the economic, political, social and cultural fabric of Canada. I hope every Canadian has an opportunity to attend one of the hundreds of community celebrations for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 to experience and celebrate the survival and resurgence of Indigenous cultures and languages.


Senator Mary Jane McCallum
Senator Mary Jane McCallum

I wanted to share some moments in my life that provide a history of the role and importance of Voice. 

Voice was one of the first freedoms removed from former students of residential school.  This occurred both literally and metaphorically. In the literal sense, my language was forcibly removed from me and from the other students. We were forced to communicate in a language we did not know or understand; a language that was not our own. We were subsequently punished if we were caught speaking in our mother tongue. Due to the act of having this foreign language thrust upon us, I existed in a vacuum of being Voiceless.

From a metaphorical standpoint, I was rendered Voiceless because upon entering residential school I was stripped of my self-determination and autonomy. My thoughts and opinions were not sought or valued. I was directed in how to dress, how to act and how to think. My Voice, as my identity and as a symbol of my agency, was silenced. What was the effect? 

The impacts of having Voice — or not having Voice — are profound. Voice carries with it one’s dreams, thoughts, actions, goals, ideas. Voice can be seen in how one dresses, how they wear their hair, how they carry themselves in their posture. Voice can be robust as in compliments or reprimands, or it can be meek as in gratitude or shame. 

When I allow myself to limit my Voice, I am allowing the limiting of my thoughts, my ideas, my brilliance and my spirituality.

What message, then, do I have for youth? Don’t let anyone, including loved ones, limit the autonomy and power of your Voice. Be bold, for boldness carries with it creativity and genius. Now is the time to allow your Voice to be heard confidently and proudly so that we can know – and celebrate – your creativity and genius.

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