June 21 National Aboriginal Day a Reminder of First Nations Contributions

On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, the Green Party of Canada says a very sincere thank you to First Nations.  “This year, as we put a focus on the 200 year anniversary of the war of 1812, we must acknowledge the First Nation contribution to the founding of Canada.  As we say thank you to First Nations, we also recognize there is still a lot of unfinished business,” said Lorraine Rekmans, Green Party Aboriginal Critic.  “First Nations continue to honour the treaties and share the land with Canadians even though the Crown is not upholding its promises.  This situation requires continued attention and action.”

When war broke out with the Americans in 1812, the First Nations lined up in two groups: those who fought on the side of the British and those who fought independently against the Americans. They all saw the Americans as a common foe.

The War of 1812 was a turning point for the First Nations, being the last conflict in north eastern North America in which their participation was important, if not critical. The First Nations were largely responsible for the fall of Michilimackinac on July 17, 1812; the surprise attack had been worked out by Tecumseh.

When peace came on Christmas Eve, 1814, it was the First Nations who were lost and forgotten. The Americans and British made a peace agreement at Ghent, Belgium, without any involvement by First Nations. The British readily agreed to drop the First Nations as allies, the borders remained the same, and both sides were able to claim a measure of victory to cover up the loss of life and cost of the war.

“Treaties were negotiated by Britain with the First Nations in advance of the invasion in order to secure allegiance.  These treaties must be honoured,” said Rekmans.  “Remembering the past also means honouring the promises that were made.”

Since 1996, National Aboriginal Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

“National Aboriginal Day can serve as a reminder that Canada has a long way to go in improving relationships with First Nations,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.   “No Canadian should be satisfied with the status quo.  With the appalling conditions on First Nation reserves and the failure of the Canadian government to uphold First Nations’ rights, it is evident that we do not yet have a relationship of respect.”

“On National Aboriginal Day, we should re-commit to full recognition of the cultural, political and economic contributions of First Nations, Inuit, Innu and Métis people to Canada.”