On June 21, 1996, the Governor General of Canada dedicated this day to the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. It is the day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, representing the many Indigenous societies that would come together on this date to perform traditional celebratory rituals such as Powwows, Ceremonies, and Sundances.

We celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day to recognize and honour the unique heritage, culture, and traumas that the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples endure. As the first inhabitants of Turtle Island, now known as Canada, we can show our respect and recognition by:

  • listening to their unique music,
  • watching dance performances,
  • attending parades,
  • and visiting exhibits.

However, the best way to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day is to learn about the various Indigenous groups and their histories. National Indigenous Peoples Day serves as a platform to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ resilience in Canada.

This year, and every year ahead, we commemorate this day and shed light on the mental health issue within Indigenous communities across Canada, seeking to raise awareness, understanding, and support. Indigenous Peoples face unique challenges regarding mental health stemming from intergenerational trauma, systemic inequalities, and loss of cultural identity. The effects of colonization have left deep scars that continue to affect mental well-being. Many Indigenous Peoples struggle with higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal rates compared to non-Indigenous populations.

One key factor contributing to these challenges is the loss of cultural practices and traditional healing methods. The erosion of Indigenous languages, ceremonies, and customs has disrupted the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and healing techniques such as the guidance of the Medicine Wheel and cleansing of Smudge and Prayer. Recognizing and preserving these cultural practices are vital steps in supporting the mental health of Indigenous communities. Addressing the mental health needs of Indigenous Peoples involves:

  • supporting community-led initiatives,
  • investing in mental health services to better assist them,
  • and fostering collaborative relationships between Indigenous communities and healthcare providers.

Reclaiming cultural identity is an essential part of promoting mental well-being, and we can do this by celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day. Through celebrating and acknowledging the mental health challenges Indigenous communities face, we are supporting cultural practices and creating a space for traditional healing methods to help restore a sense of identity, pride, and community connection.


Blog post by Jaylee Cardinal, Executive Assistant.


Boksa, P., Joober, R. and Kirmayer, L.J. (2015) ‘Mental wellness in Canada’s Aboriginal communities: Striving toward reconciliation’, Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience, 40(6), pp. 363–365. doi:10.1503/jpn.150309

Lavallee, L.F., Poole, J.M. Beyond Recovery: Colonization, Health, and Healing for Indigenous People in Canada. Int J Mental Health Addiction 8, 271–281 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-009-9239-8

Why do we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21? (2017), Live & Learn: a project of English Online Inc. https://livelearn.ca/article/about-canada/why-do-we-celebrate-national-aboriginal-day-on-june-21/?clb-version=clb5plus