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Our Drums are Getting Louder: Celebrating Youth Resilience and Hope on National Aboriginal Day

June 21, 2016

Each year on June 21st Canada celebrates National Aboriginal Day. A day first declared in 1996 to honour the vibrant Indigenous cultures and traditions of this land now called Canada. The day falls alongside the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and an important time for many Indigenous communities. Ceremonies, festivals, gatherings, and other events are held across the country inviting everyone to learn more about First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and the significant contributions that they have played–and continue to play–in Canada’s development and progress.

This year more than ever we have reason to celebrate. With the recent closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the release of their Calls to Action we have seen more truth being uncovered and more commitment to rebuilding relationships across Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples than ever before. We have seen the launch of a long-awaited national inquiry into the cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a record number of Indigenous MP’s elected to the House of Commons and a new federal commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We have also witnessed landmark court decisions including the Supreme Court recognizing Métis and non-status Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution and a ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere. From academia to sports, journalism to the sciences, virtually every profession and corner of Canadian society has seen strong leadership from Indigenous peoples–heck, this year we even saw Ashley Callingbull be the first First Nations woman to be crowned Mrs. Universe!


But where is the most transformative change happening? Outside of politics and beyond the headlines some of the most significant change and community building is happening at the youth level. Indigenous youth are overcoming tremendous obstacles by finding innovative ways to heal and dream just as our ancestors have fought for. We are finding new ways to challenge intergenerational trauma and injustice, leveraging the power of resilience and hope in order to vision new possibilities for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Perhaps the greatest success in this growing network of young Indigenous change makers is our ability to support and inspire one another. Many youth continue to struggle, even our strongest leaders, but we are stepping forward with solutions–together. We know what we need in our communities; we just need more people to listen and to support us in turning our ideas into action. This National Aboriginal Day if you are willing to celebrate with us and are interested in supporting the voices of Indigenous youth I encourage you to take a look at one project that I am extremely proud to have been a part of. TakingITGlobal’s Indigenous Youth Advisory Circle created an Idea Book that was launched at the end of April at the National Youth Leadership and Innovation Strategy (NYLIS) Summit in Toronto.

This book includes input from First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth from 30 different communities across Canada, sharing their visions on important topics such as culture and language revitalization, stereotypes, healing, connectedness and belonging, and reconciliation. Their words are honest, brave and full of love, demonstrating immense hope for the future of our nations and reconciliation in Canada.


A big thank-you to the Samuel Family Foundation for supporting the printing of the Idea Book and for bringing six of us together to launch it at the NYLIS Summit in Toronto. Also many thanks to everyone across our networks who has taken the time to read and celebrate what these youth have to say. To learn more about the ideas and visions shared in this resource please visit: