OTTAWA -- A day to celebrate Indigenous peoples in Canada is tinged with sadness.

It’s the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day. For many, like Natalie Lloyd, who is the general administrator of Ottawa’s Wabano Centre, it’s a day to take a moment.

“What we did today is take pause, take pause to reflect.”

The news of the remains of children found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. has had an impact across Canada, including on Ottawa’s community at the Wabano Centre.

“It brings up a lot of trauma because, for a lot of us, some of my co-workers have actually been to residential school, or it’s their parents, or their grandparents who’ve gone,” Lloyd tells CTV News Ottawa.

“People need to understand that a lot of Indigenous people are grieving. They’re realizing that could’ve been my grandmother and I wouldn’t have been here. That could’ve been another family member, or that was another family member who I heard about and we never knew where they were.”

The Wabano Centre launched the “Wabano Legacy Series” Monday. The series of videos were created to honour Elders who have shared teachings.

The day first started as National Aboriginal People’s Day in 1996.

“It’s definitely morphed a little bit over time and it’s definitely always had a cultural component for celebration,” said Katherine Minich, a lecturer with Carleton University’s Indigenous Policy and Administration Program.

The national observance recognizes the heritage, diverse cultures, and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. It also takes place on summer solstice.

“It being the first day of summer, the longest day in the year, it’s definitely a time to reflect as Indigenous peoples on that connection with how we’re parts of the Earth,” says Minich.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is marked as a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories, but many think it should be a national holiday.

“It would be a nice one to begin our summer,” says Minich.

The City of Ottawa marked the day with a new addition to Pimisi LRT Station.

In a tweet, mayor Jim Watson said, “Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we unveil the first installation of the Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel at Pimisi Station, designed by Algonquin artist, Simon Brascoupé.”

What would be been the finale to the month long Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is now extended to June 29 because of thunderstorm watches for Ottawa, says Trina Mather-Simard, festival producer.

“For us, our festival has always been built around that day, creating an opportunity for our community to really celebrate it, and just really welcoming all other Canadians to spend the month getting a little more awareness and understanding of Indigenous cultures.”

For Lloyd, it’s a day to pause, reflect, and enjoy the longest day of the year.

“Summer solstice and National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for everybody. We’re in this place together.”


If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.