Celebrating National Aboriginal Day: the Importance of Culture and Health
Heritage, culture, and language constitute the backbone of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada. A strong and vibrant culture is directly related to healthy people. Strong connection to culture plays an active role in health promotion. As the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states, cultures which include community education and knowledge exchange have tangible health benefits. Culture matters! Traditional Knowledge is even more important in making the connection between culture and health. The holistic and Traditional Knowledge of Elders – including traditional healing practices and medicines – form part of a continuum of care that promotes healthy physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
Culture plays an important role in the health and well being of all Canadians, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis. In expression of this belief, the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) has produced numerous publications on culture and health. First Nations, Inuit, Métis communities and knowledge translation/cultural competence have been the focus of some of NAHO’s recent publications. As the fastest growing and youngest populations in Canada with a 45 per cent increase in First Nations, Inuit and Métis population growth, we are playing a pivotal role in creating culture and in the prosperous future that beckons for all Canadians.*
NAHO will be celebrating the spirit of First Nations, Inuit and Métis and the importance of health and well being with a ceremony to honour national Aboriginal role models in the National Aboriginal Role Model Program during the fall of 2011. The National Aboriginal Role Model Program celebrates the accomplishments of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth aged 13 to 30. Lead Your Way! inspires First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth to strive to reach their goals. Each year, 12 Aboriginal role models are selected for their achievements, leadership, and innovation, who are nominated by their peers. Throughout the year, the role models will attend celebrations, school functions, workshops, and conferences to share their stories with other First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth.
In 1996, former Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc declared June 21 National Aboriginal Day across Canada as a reminder of the value of the unique contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have made to this country. This recognition, among others, is a positive step in forging a new relationship between First Nations, Inuit and Métis and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of a shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada.
Celebrations will be taking place across Canada. The Government of Ontario recently recognized the contributions Aboriginal people, their cultures and traditions have made, and continue to make, to Ontario and Canada. Events across the Province, including traditional drumming and dancing ceremonies, fiddle performances, and arts and crafts shows will be held. Many fun and exciting events will be held all across Canada for 11 days starting on June 21st. Celebrate Canada festivities over this week and a half will include National Aboriginal Day (June 21), Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24), Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27) and concludes with Canada Day (July 1).
* From 1996 to 2006 compared to 8 per cent increase for the non-Aboriginal population- Statistics Canada, 2006 Census January 2008.
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