The Grand Council of the Crees

National Aboriginal Day Address by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

National Aboriginal Day Address by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Posted: 2006-06-21

Greetings, it is with great pleasure that I address you on this National day of Celebration, celebrating the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. I want to share some thoughts with you briefly, as for some of you today is a holiday, and it represents the first long weekend of summer to spend with your families. When it was first made a national holiday by Governor General Romeo LeBlanc in 1996, it was to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal peoples, and applaud their contributions to modern society.

As Aboriginal Peoples, we have made many contributions, without which, society would have been profoundly different. Some of the more popular contributions include the introduction of chocolate, coffee, chewing gum, and maple syrup, which have become a part of everyday life in North America. Also, one could not imagine going to the movies without popcorn, or having a summer without barbeques. National sports such as hockey and basketball were based on traditional Aboriginal games. The majority of medicines used in the world today are made from traditional plants and remedies used by Aboriginal peoples.

As an Aboriginal People, today is a day to promote, preserve and protect our identity. It is to recommit ourselves to the education of our youth and children in our languages, culture and ways. It is to instill within them a sense of pride and dignity in their rich heritage and history. It is a time to share with them the knowledge of past generations, and give them the hope of present and future prosperity and opportunities. It is a day for us to reflect as a People, in the accomplishments we have made in ourselves, our communities and our Nation.

Today, there are events and festivities celebrated in Aboriginal communities and some cities throughout Canada to commemorate this day. However, to many non-Aboriginal people it will be a day where little is known of the people who are so celebrated as to enjoy a National Day in their honour. There remains little education in the schools, whether in Aboriginal communities or elsewhere in Canada, to teach the children of the history of Aboriginal peoples, treaties, culture and society. We as Aboriginal peoples have a rich, diverse and deep heritage to share, and our traditional ways contribute to the biodiversity of knowledge in the world today. So while the National holiday raises awareness of our presence there yet remains a lack of support and commitment by governments to provide the resources necessary to keep this diversity alive, and value the past and continuing contributions it makes to society at large.

Throughout the world there are some 370 million Indigenous peoples who speak many languages and have distinct cultures or ways, and many face similar circumstances. They typically make up the most poverty stricken groups in the societies or nations they live within. Some of the common issues are poor education and health care systems, unclean drinking water, shortage of housing, little to no economic development, and competing interests over the scarce resources they have. Nationally, and globally, there needs to be benchmarks set by society to work towards alleviating the conditions that most Aboriginal Peoples in the world live in. This said, the richness of culture and collective personality of the people survives within these groups. They celebrate each other.

Today, as we celebrate National Aboriginal Day, and what it means to us as Aboriginal People, we should remember the importance of the knowledge, skills and traditions we possess. Within them, there are many more cures and remedies, and transformative innovations for modern society to enjoy with us. One thing, Aboriginal Peoples are not lacking in, is our appreciation of the life and people around us.

Meegwetch & Happy National Aboriginal Day.