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National Indigenous Peoples Day: Celebrating Canadians who are leading the way to build a better world

5 individuals and organizations who are creating positive change in education, technology, and the Global Goals

Erin Johnston
18 June 2020

On June 21st, Canada celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day. This day is the culmination of Indigenous Peoples Month, which honours the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

We want to take this opportunity to highlight 5 of the many leaders and organizations that are making a significant impact in education, technology, and working to achieve the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. We are so inspired by them and encourage everyone to learn more about the work they do!

Autumn Peltier: fighting for clean water

Portrait of Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier (photo: Autumn Peltier, Facebook)

At 15 years old, Autumn Peltier has already dedicated herself to clean water activism for over 7 years. Autumn, who lives in Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario, made headlines when the Anishinabek Nation, a political advocacy group for 40 First Nations across Ontario, named her the Chief Water Commissioner - at just 14 years old. She has spoken at events around the world, was nominated for the 2019 International Children's Peace Prize, and continues to fight for access to clean water, especially in Indigenous communities.

Canadian Roots Exchange: shaping the future of truth and reconciliation

A group of participants at CRE’s Rural Youth Training in Kamloops, BC (photo: Canadian Roots Exchange, Facebook)

A group of participants at CRE’s Rural Youth Training in Kamloops, BC (photo: Canadian Roots Exchange, Facebook)

Canadian Roots Exchange is the largest Indigenous-led non-profit organization in Canada. Since their launch in 2008, CRE has focused on empowering youth to shape the future of reconciliation. To foster respect, understanding, and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, CRE runs nation-wide leadership programs to facilitate dialogue and strengthen these relationships. CRE reports that almost 70% of Indigenous youth in the Program believe that reconciliation is possible in our lifetime! The organization has organized 8 annual youth Gatherings, the last of which brought together over 450 youth from across the nation. In 2019, CRE empowered 126 Youth Leaders that reached 55 communities, delivered 116 workshops and 132 events for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Their most recent initiative, CREation Community Support Fund, launched in response to COVID-19 and successfully funded 62 community and youth-led initiatives that will reach 19,000 youth in 11 Provinces and Territories in order to support youth wellbeing during this time.

Diandra Bruised Head: conserving and protecting native environments with Traditional Knowledge

Diandra Bruised Head speaking at the Nature-Based Climate Solutions Summit (photo: Susanne Ure).

Diandra Bruised Head speaking at the Nature-Based Climate Solutions Summit (photo: Susanne Ure)

Diandra Bruised Head, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and works as a Climate Change Consultant in the Kainai First Nation, advocates for the importance of conserving and protecting native environments from an ecological and spiritual perspective. She was born and raised on the Blood Reserve, and started her working life amongst nature as a forest ranger crew leader, forestry technician and wildlife technician. In combination with her training in classical Western science, Diandra weaves her Traditional Ecological Knowledge with climate change policy to develop nature-based climate solutions.

Pinnguaq Association: bringing STEAM to rural and remote communities

A young girl practices computer design during one of Pinnguaq’s workshops (photo: Pinnguaq Association)

A young girl practices computer design during one of Pinnguaq’s workshops (photo: Pinnguaq Association)

“Pinnguaq” means “play” in Inuktitut. The name is a perfect fit for the Pinnguaq Association, a not-for-profit organization and a fellow CanCode recipient based in Nunavut (with team members in British Columbia and Quebec, too!) that shares STEAM learning opportunities across rural and remote communities in Canada. Pinnguaq offers digital skills training, courses in content production, and access to makerspaces, all with the goal of promoting storytelling, health, wellness, and growth in rural and remote communities. Over 3000 participants have taken part in Pinnguaq’s activities and over 1000 projects have been created! During the COVID-19 crisis, Pinnguaq pivoted to create the “Pinnguaq @ Home” initiative which offers weekly online modules for learners. Try it out and learn something new!

Cindy Blackstock: championing the Global Goals through equity and reconciliation

Cindy Blackstock and Spirit Bear (photo retrieved from thephilanthropist.ca)

Cindy Blackstock and Spirit Bear (photo retrieved from thephilanthropist.ca)

Cindy Blackstock is a First Nations human rights activist and the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. For more than 30 years, Cindy has worked in child welfare and fought for Indigenous children’s rights. First Nations communities are systemically underfunded, leaving First Nations children and families without the same opportunities to succeed. This, in turn, puts Canada behind in achieving the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. “The SDGs are really relevant for First Nations people because they’re targeted around education, equity, health, and dealing with structural discrimination”, Cindy said at SDG-focused event, Future of Good. Through her work, Cindy is determined to ensure that First Nations children have the services they need to thrive.

To support the work of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada undertakes, you can read the Spirit Bear’s Plan to end inequalities in public services for First Nations children, youth and families, learn about Jordan's Principle for equitable public services for First Nations kids, support the I am Witness campaign or take part in the Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams campaign.

How are you celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day?

We hope that you will take National Indigenous Peoples Day as an opportunity to learn more about the amazing work that First Nations, Inuit & Métis peoples are undertaking to protect our planet and our collective futures. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many events have been moved online, making them more accessible than ever! Take part in an art workshop or movie screening hosted by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity or dance along with the virtual powwows live-streamed by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day, Canada!

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