National Indigenous History Month 2021

National Indigenous History Month 2021 honours the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities. The Government of Canada is encouraging Canadians to learn more about the history of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and their contributions to the cultural fabric of Canada. This year, National Indigenous History Month is dedicated to the missing children, the families left behind and the survivors of residential schools.

As part of National Indigenous History Month 2021, Parks Canada is highlighting three designations of national historic significance that focus on different aspects of the history and the culture of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Reading about Residential Schools might be triggering or distressing. A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students and their families. Please call the Crisis Line at Phone number1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know is triggered while reading the content on this website.

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Former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia
© Sisters of Charity, Halifax, Congregational Archives

The Residential School System National Historic Event

The Residential School System is a tragedy born from colonial policies in Canada’s history. It is one that has had negative effects on generations of Indigenous peoples with enduring impacts on First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, cultures, economies, traditional knowledge and ways of life, languages, family structures, and connections to the land. On September 1, 2020, the Government of Canada designated the Residential School System as a national historic event, and also designated as national historic sites the former Portage La Prairie Indian Residential School in Manitoba and the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia.

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Peter Pitseolak with his 122 camera
© Aggeok Pitseolak, [1946-1947] / Canadian Museum of History, 2000-181

Peter Pitseolak National Historic Person

Location: Cape Dorset, Nunavut

Aware that Inuit culture was undergoing momentous change, Peter Pitseolak took care to record both the old customs and beliefs of his people and their adjustment to a new life. His carvings, prints and photography have been highly acclaimed both for their historical importance and their artistic quality. A man of great versatility, Pitseolak furnished a valuable account of the recent history of Sikusuilaq (southern Baffin Island) where he spent most of his life.

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Facilities and view at Ehdaa
© Madison Pilling, Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation

Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada

Location: Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories

Ehdaa has been a traditional gathering place for the Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ Dene since long before the arrival of Europeans. In the past, people met annually at this site to renew old ties, trade, decide on harvesting areas, resolve disputes and to participate in ceremonies of healing and thanksgiving. With the arrival of the fur trade period, the Dene used this site to camp when they came to exchange their goods. From the fur trade period and through to the signing of Treaty 11 in 1921, the site remains important to the Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ Dene who renew their ongoing connection to the place with seasonal celebrations at the Drum Circle.

Are you aware of a subject related to the history of Indigenous peoples, or any person, place or event that may have national historical significance? Learn more about the nomination process to apply for a designation.

The mandate of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is to advise the Government of Canada, through the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, on the commemoration of nationally significant aspects of Canada's history.

Following an evaluation process and recommendation by the Board, the Minister has the authority to designate a site, event or person of national historic significance.

In addition to advising on designations of national historic significance, the Board provides advice on the following laws and programs:

National Historic Sites System Plan

We are pleased to share the Framework for History and Commemoration: National Historic Sites System Plan 2019. This framework provides strategic direction for Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) in their work to recognize and share our country’s rich history and engage Canadians in their past.

The Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing the stories of Canada’s history through diverse, wide-ranging, and sometimes complex perspectives, including the difficult periods of our past. In particular, it will ensure that the history and voices of Indigenous peoples are incorporated at Parks Canada’s heritage places.

For the work of the HSMBC, this plan identifies strategic priorities that will encourage new and diverse types of public nominations for persons, places, and events of national historic significance. It also outlines a process for the careful review of existing designations and acknowledges the need to adapt the policies and practices of the Board.