06/21/2012 07:04 EDT | Updated 08/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Aboriginal Day perspectives, from Patrick Brazeau to Shawn Brant

As native people from coast to coast celebrate National Aboriginal Day, CBC News spoke with a range of people to get their perspectives on the importance and meaning of the event.

Senator Patrick Brazeau, former national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples:

"Being in Ottawa and knowing a lot of aboriginal people who work in the federal government, I know many people take the day off or afternoon off because their employers give them that opportunity to attend the festivities. I think for the most part people do view it as a special day."

"This is one of the very few days that people don't think about the past or don't reminisce about what was or what isn't. I think it is more a day of celebration."

Elder Walter Linklater of Saskatchewan:

"I think it's very important because it gives an opportunity for the rest of the population that don't know too much about native ways and native culture and native history and things like that. I think it's important for the non-Indian population to learn the true history of First Nations people."

"Most of our First Nations people who are stable, recognize the importance of it and they get involved in it and are very happy about it, but a lot of our people are still affected by colonization. But even they too recognize the importance of that date for them."

Actress Jennifer Podemski, host of Aboriginal Day Live on ATPN from the First Nations University in Regina:

"Aboriginal Day has always felt like a bit of a token holiday to me. But, I have to admit that since its introduction, I've been invited to so many gatherings across the country specifically to celebrate this day and all that comes with it.

"If the day didn't exist, I have a hard time believing that there would be an excuse to celebrate our shared identity as aboriginal Canadians. So, token or not, the day has become an institution for me and so many other aboriginal people."

Mark Cardy, co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Student Association at the University of Manitoba:

"I think it's a wonderful day and a great day for exposure of aboriginal culture, and I think it needs to happen a little more often. From what I know here at the university, it seems like a very popular day and people are very excited for it."

Dominga Robinson, a board member of the Regina Aboriginal Professional Association:

"I feel that it's vital for us to come together and feel proud of who we are, our heritage, where we come from as well as our contributions. I think a lot of the youth maybe aren't aware — as well as the public at large aren't aware — of some of the really wonderful things we've done for this country.

"I think for the majority of aboriginal people, it's quite a significant and important day. This is our day. It unites us as a nation. All across the country people are recognizing this day and using it as an opportunity to celebrate ourselves."

Native activist Shawn Brant:

"It provides an opportunity for people to kind of reflect on the circumstances we face, and I think that a lot of times that gets lost in favour of very happy friendly events that depict us in a different light. I think that there isn't respect for it in the non-native community.

"People take the opportunity to have family gatherings and it's a time of get together among First Nations people, and I think that's very proper that those type of celebrations happen. I just think it's a day that requires some hard reflection on the issues that we deal with and I think people miss that.

"There isn't celebrations in all the communities and there isn't celebrations among the families that are suffering and grieving and having their kids taken away. I personally find it difficult … to celebrate."

Marc Maracle, executive director of the Gignul Non-Profit Housing Corporation in Ottawa:

"This is a genuine opportunity to see aboriginal people in a different light, celebrating culture, celebrating accomplishment, and it puts a completely different spin and that's something the average Canadian isn't historically used to. They're used to seeing what's on TV, what's in the paper, walking downtown in a large urban area and seeing the negative effects and too often it's [aboriginal people] wearing poverty out on their sleeve."