NEWS
05/23/2014 05:29 EDT | Updated 05/23/2014 05:59 EDT

When Is National Aboriginal Day? Why Celebrate It?

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[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] First nations performer at the Canada Day celebrations in downtown Vancouver.performer, performance, First Nations, native, Indian, dance, Vancouver, British Columbia, BC, celebration, festival, Canada Day, independence, birthday

National Aboriginal Day is set to take place on June 21, giving indigenous people and Canadians alike a chance to celebrate the culture and heritage of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people across the country.

It takes place on this particular day because it coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, according to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

"National Aboriginal Day is a day to remember our past leaders — their hard work and their legacy for self-determination left to us to carry on, " Harry Nice Jr. of the Gitwinksihlkw Nisga'a Village Government said in a statement.

The day was established after the National Indian Brotherhood, a precursor to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), mounted a campaign to have the date recognized as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in 1982.

Quebec's legislature recognized June 21 as a day to celebrate indigenous culture in 1991.

Five years later, the Sacred Assembly, a national meeting of indigenous and non-indigenous people, called for a national day to recognize aboriginal contributions to Canada.

June 21 was officially declared National Aboriginal Day by Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc in 1996.

Events will take place in cities across Canada. One celebration will happen at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Confederation Park in Ottawa at 11 a.m.

This year's celebration comes at an interesting time for indigenous people in Canada. There's currently a leadership void at the top of the AFN, an advocacy organization for First Nations, after national chief Shawn Atleo resigned his position earlier this month amid a heated debate on Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

It also comes as calls persist for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

A report published by the RCMP found that there have been 1,181 cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women over the past three decades, a number that "surprised" Commissioner Bob Paulson.

Of those cases, 1,017 were homicide victims and 164 were considered missing.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said that the government "must take concrete action now" following the release of the report.

The federal government hasn't exactly welcomed the prospect of an inquiry in the past.

A parliamentary report tabled in March rejected calls for an inquiry and instead advised the government to work with the provinces on a public awareness and prevention campaign that focuses on violence against women and girls.

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Photo gallery Protests For Missing, Murdered Aboriginal Women See Gallery