June 21, 2021, marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, a day for honouring the legacies, cultures, and exceptional achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. In 1996, National Aboriginal Day (now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day) was confirmed through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. This was the result of support and consultations made by various Indigenous groups in Canada. June 21 was chosen as the day of celebration because it coincides with the Summer Solstice, an important day for many Indigenous Peoples and communities that have observed it for decades. National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for all Canadians to acknowledge and celebrate all Indigenous Peoples and communities, including the countless Indigenous activists, advocates, artists, athletes, scientists, and researchers who have helped shaped history.
For the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), National Indigenous Peoples Day means celebrating the past, present, and future work and engagements with our Indigenous partners. For instance, we celebrate the research-related achievements of Jesse Thistle and his collaboration with over 50 Indigenous stakeholders in the development of the Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada. For the COH, National Indigenous Peoples Day means celebrating our collaborative efforts with members of our national Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) and the work we are doing on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
The AFN selected the COH to conduct a literature review that addresses First Nations experiences to homelessness, informing a First Nations, distinctions-based action plan. Through a search and analysis of current (2014 to 2021) literature, the project attempts to address the gaps in understanding and ways that an action plan can advocate for better services and supports for First Nations. The literature review is organized around broad themes related to homelessness (e.g., gender, age, definitions of homelessness, and pathways into homelessness) and subthemes (e.g., experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+, and experiences of Indigenous seniors). The COH is collaborating with our National Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) to guide this work in a meaningful way. After consultation with an Elder and ceremony, the project was named Endaamnaan: Homes For All Nations, which stems from the idea that there is no need for homelessness. The Indigenous worldview is embedded in the language – and framing this project’s name around the fact that everyone needs a home is essential and captures what we are trying to do with this work.
However, the celebration of Indigenous Peoples, communities, and cultures must not be limited to a single day, month or project. All Canadians must incorporate the celebration of Indigenous communities and the commitment to reconciliation into their lives on an ongoing basis. For the COH, that means prioritizing the development of genuine partnerships with Indigenous stakeholders to foster the co-creation and implementation of meaningful Indigenous homelessness prevention initiatives. To achieve this, we:
- Acknowledge the legacy of colonialism and racism in Canada.
- Commit to bi-directional learning and capacity building.
- Adopt approaches to research methodologies that embrace hybridity (combining Indigenous and Western methodologies and ways of knowing).
- Recognize the importance of Indigenous sovereignty regarding the operational implementation of our work.
Furthermore, we value Indigenous practices and ways of knowing, being, and doing. Our goal is that this knowledge and expertise impact our work and the ways we work. We encourage everyone to take the time to learn more about the inspiring contributions made by Indigenous Peoples and recognize that learning is a lifelong endeavour. We encourage all Canadians to expand their knowledge and gain a greater appreciation and understanding of Indigenous Peoples, their histories, and their cultures. You can read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, the National Inquiry's Calls for Justice, and participate in various learning activities. You can also join in on the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival or learn more about the virtual Inuit, Métis, and First Nations-led activities that are taking place: