Virtual events lined up for National Indigenous Peoples Day in northern Canada

Lillian Elias, pictured here at Inuvialuit Day on June 5 in Canada’s Northwest Territories, will be participating in the”virtual welcome” for the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership online event to be held on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21. (Courtesy Elizabeth Kolb)
Many National Indigenous Peoples Day events are going online in the Inuit region of Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) this Sunday, as COVID-19 social and physical distancing requirements remain in place in the territory.

The community corporations in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) typically organize events to mark National Indigenous Peoples day on June 21.

Previous year’s events have included everything from drum dancing to northern games like blanket toss to public art unveilings.

Current territorial public health orders limit outside gatherings to 50 people and say physical distancing must be observed, so many of this year’s events in the ISR will be streamed so as many people as possible can participate.

Gerry Kisoun, pictured here in an undated photo at World Suicide Awareness Day in Inuvik, will participate in a storytelling livestream on Sunday and will be assisted by a young person who will help make fire and tea for the event. (Courtesy Elizabeth Kolb)

One of the main events on Sunday will be a storytelling event by Gerry Kisoun at the Jak Territorial Park in the Arctic town of Inuvik.

The event will be streamed on the Inuvialuit Communications Society Facebook page.

Also on Sunday, an online National Indigenous Peoples Day event is being hosted online by Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership with an opening event featuring Inuvialuit elder Lilian Elias and a drum dance performance by Sylvia Cloutier, originally from Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, but who now lives in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

Day established in 1996

National Indigenous Peoples Day (originally called National Aboriginal Day) was established in 1996 to recognize the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis  in Canada.

Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada chose June 21 as the date as it coincided with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  (The name was changed to National Indigenous Peoples Day on 2017 as the word Indigenous became more widely used than the word Aboriginal nationally and internationally.)

Other territories going virtual

In Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory, many celebrations will also be online.

In the capital city of Whitehorse, the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and the Yukon First Nation Culture and Tourism Association will be hosting a virtual National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration from 3pm to 5pm local time. The event will be streamed on both organizations’ social media channels. 

Before the event, a “Drive-By Bannock” event will be hosted, giving away free, socially distanced, contact free, prepackaged bannock, jam and butter to drivers at the centre’s roundabout. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Seal meat, dinosaurs and friends: Nunavut Day celebrated in Canada’s eastern Arctic, CBC News

Greenland: International Inuit Day is an occasion to affirm Inuit voices across the circumpolar world, leader says, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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