Celebrating Indigenous Leadership

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In honour of National Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Canada, let’s explore the day's significance and how we support Indigenous leaders at One Young World. 


National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated annually in Canada on the  21 June. Originally celebrated as National Aboriginal Day, it is a celebration of the history, heritage, and culture of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Most importantly, it is a day of reflection to acknowledge Canada’s colonial past and the issues that Indigenous Peoples face even today.


The Origins of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada


Despite being the original inhabitants for centuries of what is now known as Canada, the first National Aboriginal Day wasn’t celebrated in Canada until 1996, following demands for a national day of recognition by various Indigenous groups such as the National Indian Brotherhood, now the Assembly of First Nations, and the Sacred Assembly. 21 June was chosen as it marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, which has had spiritual and cultural significance in many Indigenous cultures for generations as a day to honour the sun and the life it creates. 


In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans for the day to be renamed to National Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honour the communities’ preference for the term ‘Indigenous’ over ‘Aboriginal.’ It is now part of the overarching celebrations of National Indigenous People’s History Month which is celebrated throughout June.


National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is monumental in acknowledging the diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada while creating spaces for healing and collaboration. As Jenene Wooldridge, of Kuntal Kwesawe’kl (Rocky Point), Epekwitk, a Mi’kmaw author, points out in her article, “National Indigenous Peoples Day stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of Indigenous people and their enduring presence on this land.” 


The day is marked with events and ceremonies that showcase the culture of Indigenous Peoples, including music and dance performances, art and craft displays, and activities that honour the Indigenous Peoples and their heritage.


Image from the Power of Indigenous Storytelling panel at the One Young World Summit Manchester 2022


Empowering Indigenous Youth Through Global Platforms


First Nation and Indigenous traditions are known to have a symbiotic relationship with the living environment that not only enriches it but also safeguards the planet.


Historically Indigenous communities have been subjected to brutal colonisation and ethnic cleansing, and the freedom to practice their traditions and cultures has been curbed, which is a violation of human rights, and harmful to the social fabric of society and the planet. Indigenous peoples comprise 5% of the world’s population but care for 20% of the planet’s lands, and 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity.


Research has shown that including Indigenous knowledge will allow the world to tackle some of the biggest challenges, like food insecurity and climate change. 


We aim to advocated for the inclusion of Indigenous voices in policy, judiciary, climate justice and human rights by fostering a diverse and inclusive network of changemakers who are equipped to address the world's most pressing issues.


Indigenous Ambassadors speaking on a panel at COP


We will prioritise Indigenous perspectives in our scholarships and funding mechanisms, helping young leaders from these communities access the resources they need to implement impactful projects. 


Consulting First Nation and Indiginious voices is essential for our mission to create a fair and sustainable world for all.


One Young World Indigenous Council 


We are committed to empowering young people from diverse backgrounds and cultures to become agents of positive change in their communities and empowering First Nations and Indigenous youth is a strategic priority.  As part of this commitment, we recognise the importance of partnering, engaging, and supporting Indigenous and First Nations young people worldwide, while seeking their council to ensure that their voices are central to our Community and Summit.


We created our first Indigenous Advisory Council in 2023, composed of 11 young leaders from nine countries, to provide diverse perspectives on Indigenous communities. From the rainforests of Panama to the Pacific Islands, from Northern Canada to Southeast Australia, our Advisory Council highlights the solidarity among these distinct nations. Working with this group and learning from their lived experiences and collective wisdom has been an honour.


The One Young World Indigenous Counsel


Bringing the One Young World Summit to Tiohtià:ke/Montreal

Indigenous voices are a critical focus this year for the One Young World Summit Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Tiohtià:ke is situated on the traditional territory of the Kanien'kehà:ka, which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst many First Nations, and we are honored to host the very first Indigenous Youth Day before the Summit. Indigenous Youth Day will be a space specifically for young Indigenous leaders from around the world to connect, network and share their experiences. 


The Indigenous Youth Day will focus on five themes:

  • Indigenous learnings on environmental stewardship, 
  • culture and language, 
  • safeguarding Indigenous people’s autonomy,
  • Indigenous leadership, and land and ocean rights.


Indigenous Youth Day will be hosted at La Maison des peuples autochtones exclusively for Indigenous Young Leaders where First Nations young leaders from across what is now known as Canada will share their stories. 


Established in 2000, La Maison des peuples autochtones is a legacy of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People and a unique part of recent Indigenous heritage in Quebec.


Indigenous leadership on the Summit stage


Every One Young World Summit has featured Indigenous young leaders sharing their impactful and inspiring work to uplift their communities, advocate for green policy or much more. Since 2016, we have aimed to include Indigenous voices. Esteemed speakers like Senator Murray Sinclair and Xiye Bastida have graced our events. Sessions have delved into topics such as “The Power of Indigenous Storytelling” and “Indigenous Knowledge and the Climate Crisis: Reshaping Climate Narratives.”


Image from the Indigenous Young Leaders Panel at the One Young World Summit Belfast, 2023


Watch, read, and learn more about Indigenous and First Nation peoples 


The best way to learn more about Indigenous and First Nation peoples is by hearing and sharing their stories. 




Indigenous Voices for Nature Conservation - a YouTube documentary series on First Nations, Inuit and Métis leadership in nature conservation, and its importance to cultural conservation and reconciliation.


Indigenous Connections - watch videos from Indigenous Peoples sharing their homelands and traditions.




Telling our Twisted Histories - listen to the untwisting of Indigenous history which has been twisted by centuries of colonisation. 


Traditional Stories and Creation Stories - hear six traditional stories told by Indigenous storytellers from communities across Canada, available in the respective Indigenous languages, English, and French.




APTN News - stay up to date with current affairs news in Canada on Indigenous people.


Indigenous Reading List - read recommended books by the staff members of the First Nations Development Institute.

Published on 21/06/2024