Previously called National Aboriginal Day, June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day and it’s a time for celebrating First Nation’s culture.
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 prevented all major Indigenous Peoples Day events from taking place in their usual formats. Hopefully the events will be able to run normally in 2021 (although it’s not looking likely).
One thing that is happening in 2021 is the Talking Stick Festival. That festival is offering a series of online events and activities throughout the month of June. Live events are also taking place at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, and online in Surrey. Admission is also free at the Bill Reid Gallery on Sunday, June 20th.
See below for details about what’s happening in 2021, and for information about what happens in typical years in various parts of the Lower Mainland.
Indigenous Peoples Day in the Lower Mainland
Best places to enjoy First Nations dancing, art and festivities in the Lower Mainland in a typical year include events at Trout Lake at John Hendry Park, outside the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston Village, and at various other locations.
Click on any of the following links to jump to event details at a specific location, or continue reading to learn about National Indigenous People’s Day celebrations throughout the Lower Mainland.
National Indigenous Day at Trout Lake
The City of Vancouver’s main National Indigenous People’s Day celebrations usually begin on June 21st each year at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre at 1607 East Hastings Street.
The event at the centre is followed later in the morning with a Friendship Walk starting at around 11 am. The procession begins at the Friendship Centre, goes along Commercial Drive and finishes at Trout Lake. Festivities at John Hendry Park and Trout Lake then continue from around 12:00 pm until the late afternoon most years.
Celebrations at Trout Lake feature First Nations dance performances, canoeing, art displays and cultural learning opportunities.
The June 21st National Indigenous Day celebrations at Trout Lake are free and everyone is welcome. The event was cancelled in 2020 and as of early June 2021, there has not been an official update on whether it will take place this year. Unfortunately, it seems more likely that it will be cancelled again.
To learn more about this event see our article about Indigenous People’s Day at Trout Lake.
Bill Reid Gallery (in Vancouver)
To commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day, most years the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is free to the public on June 21st. 2021 is no exception. If you visit the downtown Vancouver gallery between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm on June 21st you don’t have to pay.
There isn’t usually dancing and entertainment like at the Trout Lake event. With free admission, however, it’s a great time to visit the gallery and see some exceptional Northwest Coast First Nations art.
Click Bill Reid Gallery for more on the Gallery.
Indigenous Peoples Day in Richmond
In 2019 celebratory activities took place outside the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston Village on Saturday, June 22, from 12:00 to 4:00 pm. The event was held entirely online in 2020.
In 2021 there isn’t a big event, like there has been in years prior to COVID-19. Admission is free on June 21st, however, to people of First Nations, Inuit and Metis decent. All other admission fees on the day, for paying visitors, will be donated to a couple of charities benefiting Indigenous causes.
In years when it does take place in person, at the event there is drumming, storytelling, dancing and other family-friendly activities and entertainment. Admission to the historic site is also usually free on the day.
Click National Indigenous Peoples Day in Richmond for more information.
Indigenous Day in Fort Langley
National Indigenous People’s Day activities were going to take place at the historic site of Fort Langley on June 20th in 2020 but were cancelled. There has been no official word (as of early June 2021) whether they will take place this year either.
If and when it does happen in future years, the event typically runs from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm and features many different activities and performances.
Admission rates are about $7.90 for adults and $6.60 for seniors most years. Children under 18 years of age are free.
Click Fort Langley for further details about the site. Regular admission rates apply.
National Indigenous Peoples Day in Maple Ridge
In 2019 Maple Ridge celebrated the day with activities at the Memorial Peace Park on Saturday, June 22nd. From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm there was Indigenous dancing, music and other cultural activities. There was also a Bannock cook-off, food vendors, games and crafts. 2020’s event took place online.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the Maple Ridge event was hosted by the Fraser River Indigenous Society. The festivities featured art by local Dene artist Theodore Jackson and Hoop dancing by Jane Wilie. There was also singing by Rea Dawn and drumming by the Community Services Children’s Drum Group.
Memorial Peace Park is located in downtown Maple Ridge at 11900 224th Street by McIntosh Avenue.
In 2021 Maple Ridge celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day with an online event. Click Indigenous Peoples Day in Maple Ridge for further details.
National Indigenous Day in Mission
2019 National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations were hosted on June 21st by the Mission Friendship Centre. The event took place in the afternoon at Fraser River Heritage Park at 7494 Mary Street in the form of a concert.
The celebrations were part of the community’s 29th annual Twilight Concert Series which is a weekly summer event.
At the 2019 event on June 21st Stō:lo/St’át’imc rapper and multimedia artist Ostwelve entertained with his acting, community activist, graphic designing, podcasting, rapping and radio hosting skills.
Details about who might be performing in 2021, and whether the event happens at all, are still to be confirmed as of early June. Chances are though that a live event won’t likely happen until 2022 because of COVID-19.
For further details about the event see the City of Mission‘s website.
Indigenous Peoples Day in Port Moody
In 2019 National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrations took place in Port Moody on June 21st at Rocky Point Park. Activities ran from 6:00 until 9:00 pm. They featured music, a water ceremony involving canoes and kayaks, and a free community feast. Details about the 2021 event are to be confirmed.
At the event in previous years people have been able to watch and participate from land or from the water. For those that wished, folk could register in advance to go in a Takaya Tours canoe (by donation) or rent a double kayak (for about $25). (Note: Spaces were limited.)
The feast at the Port Moody event was by donation in 2019. The suggested amount was between $0 and $20. It’s not a huge meal, but it’s tasty. In 2019 you got a choice of a small piece of salmon or beef, a little bit of mixed rice with corn, and a tiny pastry for dessert. It was delicious and definitely worth getting in line for!
The Port Moody event isn’t a huge one, but it’s very interesting. Up to about 300 people attend. The event does not seem likely to take place in 2021 as of early June 2021, so chances are we will have to wait until 2022 for it to return.
Click Indigenous Peoples Day in Port Moody for more details about the event.
National Indigenous Peoples Day in Surrey
In 2020 the activities were scheduled for June 21st with festivities to run from 3:00 until 8:00 pm. Unfortunately, the 2020 event was cancelled. There will be a 2021 edition, though it is taking place entirely online.
In 2021 there is a virtual show for children which happens in the morning of June 21st from 10:50 until 11:30 am. The main event takes place online in the afternoon, from 6:00 until 7:30 pm.
In years when it takes place at Holland Park, the event in Surrey is a big one! Several thousand people usually attend, there are dozens of vendors and community stalls, and the entertainment is extensive.
For more information about the event both this year and in the past see our article about Indigenous Peoples Day in Surrey.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is a great place to visit and learn about Indigenous culture and history any time of the year. Located in Whistler’s Upper Village at 4584 Blackcomb Way, the centre has exhibits and a really good gift shop. They also offer tours daily and host special events for the public at various times.
The Centre is one of the few places near Vancouver that’s hosting live, in-person activities on June 21st in 2021. A drum circle performs on Sunday, June 20th. The following day the drum circle performs again in the afternoon. Also on the Monday, the Spiritual Warriors Band performs to a maximum crowd of 50 people.
To learn more about the venue and its events see our article about the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
The Lower Mainland is on the unceded traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. In Vancouver this includes the territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations.
First Nations in other parts of Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland include the Hwlitsum, Katzie, Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem, Matsqui, Qayqayt, Semiahmoo, Sto:lo and Tsawwassen nations.
For information about other related events at other times of the year, click Lower Mainland First Nations.
For a list of other types of events throughout the year, click Festivals & Events Calendar.
As of 2021, a new holiday in both Canada and BC is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It takes place on September 30th and commemorates the horrible history of the Canadian residential school system.