The University of Toronto joins members of the Indigenous community this June to mark National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.
Officially established in 1996 by the Government of Canada, National Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the rich and diverse cultures, languages, stories, and experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people across Turtle Island. The date of June 21 coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, a time that holds significance for many Indigenous peoples and communities. In 2009, the Government of Canada declared June as National Indigenous History Month to recognize and celebrate the heritage and ongoing accomplishments of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
This day and month come at a time when the University of Toronto marks the fifth anniversary of the entrustment of Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin: Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We have made progress in honouring the 34 Calls to Action identified by the Steering Committee by expanding Indigenous hires among our faculty and staff; creating and enhancing Indigenous spaces on our three campuses; and supporting Indigenous-led research and the integration of Indigenous knowledges into curriculum across a variety of disciplines. However, significant work remains to be done in these and other areas. I invite you to read the forthcoming 2021 Annual Progress Report by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives to learn more about recent initiatives and where we will redouble efforts to make systemic change in the years ahead.
I also encourage every member of the U of T community to engage actively with National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day. Active engagement can involve taking part in related programming across our three campuses; deepening awareness and understanding through cultural competency training offered to students and faculty, librarians, and staff by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives; or seeking opportunities beyond U of T to expand knowledge of Indigenous cultures and histories.
Most importantly, active engagement involves recognizing the role that each one of us plays, both personally and professionally, in advancing truth and reconciliation. Together, we can move forward from a place of mutual recognition and respect to counter the harmful legacy of colonization on Indigenous members of the U of T community and on Indigenous communities more broadly.
Resources and Support
Resources are available to Indigenous members of our community who need additional support.
For those who are struggling and who need support, I encourage you to contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Indigenous Student Services at First Nations House, the Indigenous Centre at UTM, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Offices at UTSC and UTM. Staff can connect you with appropriate resources.
Employees have 24/7 access to counselling and other mental health support via our Employee & Family Assistance Program. Students can access supports through Indigenous Student Services at First Nations House, the Indigenous Centre at UTM and My SSP.
The Hope for Wellness Helpline offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis management to all Indigenous peoples across Canada.