Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated annually on June 21st to honour, recognize and celebrate the cultures and contributions of  First Nations, Inuit and Metis Indigenous peoples in Canada.

At RMB, we believe in promoting real stories from Indigenous peoples every day of the year! We spoke with some of our authors to discover what National Indigenous Peoples Day means to them, and how they honour Indigenous cultures on this special day.

Cecil Paul – Wa’xaid

Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is a respected elder, activist and orator, and one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. Cecil was born in 1931 in the Kitlope and raised on fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. At the age of 10 he was torn from his family and placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. For years, Cecil suffered from the pain of the abuse inflicted there. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he finally returned to the Kitlope and the positive influence of his people’s knowledge and ways. Once Cecil’s healing journey began, he eventually became an outspoken leader against the industrialization of his people’s land and traditional territory, working tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world.

What does National Indigenous Peoples Day mean to you? 

“I remember when I first started to speak publicly, I said: When you lose the language, the nation dies. People are teaching their language now. It is open in the school system. That is one of the most beautiful changes I have seen in my life, my people are teaching their language again.”

 ‘Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid’ | RMB 2019 – $30.00

Neepin Auger

Neepin Auger is a Cree artist, educator and mother. Originally from the Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta, she has been painting for over ten years, having studied art under her father, Dale Auger, a renowned First Nations artist and author of the award-winning children’s book Mwakwa – Talks to the Loon: A Cree Story for Children (Heritage House, 2006). Neepin graduated from the Department of Education and Schooling at Mount Royal University and is now a full-time teacher.

What does National Indigenous Peoples Day mean to you?     

“National Indigenous Peoples day is June 21, 2019. It is on this day that we take the time to celebrate the culture and contributions made by First Nations people. I am a proud Cree woman from the Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta. My Cree cultures and values have guided me on my artistic and educational journeys. Today I am celebrating my Grandmother Rose Auger, who was a residential school survivor. Her stories and traditional teachings are what will carry me and my daughter throughout this life.”

Discovering People, Discovering Numbers, Discovering Words | RMB 2019 $12.00

John Reilly

John Reilly is the bestselling author of 3 RMB books. After 33 years in public service as a circuit court judge, Reilly retired, having become disillusioned with the Canadian criminal justice system and in particular its treatment of Indigenous people. Still publicly active and openly critical about the law, politics, and the legal system, he now seeks to challenge people to rethink the true meaning of justice, the need for drastic changes in the criminal justice system in Canada, and the need to change our attitudes towards Indigenous people. John lives in Calgary, Alberta.

What is it about the stories of Indigenous peoples that inspires you?

“I am inspired by the resilience, humour and non-critical nature of the Indigenous people. They have been displaced by the settler society and were subjected to the genocidal policies of the Canadian state, and yet I never detect any animosity in discussing their difficulties. They just express a need to be understood and to improve their present circumstances. They don’t want revenge. They just want what is fair. This to me is the essence of restorative justice, and it motivates me to work towards replacing punitive measures with restorative ones.”

Bad Law, Bad Medicine, Bad Judgement | RMB 2019 $25.00

Briony Penn

Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. Her work with Cecil Paul will continue with the publication of a comprehensive and collaborative biography, Following the Good River: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul, which will be published by RMB in the autumn of 2019.

What is it about the stories of Indigenous peoples that inspires you?

“I read the stories of First Nations like I read the instructions on a fire extinguisher: critical instructions on how to get ourselves out of a climate and nature emergency when the planet is burning.”