Assembly of First Nations National Chief Celebrates Action by First Nations for Positive Change, Encourages all Canadians to Learn More and Support Efforts

OTTAWA, June 21, 2013 /CNW/ - This National Aboriginal Day, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo draws attention to the contributions and accomplishments of First Nations driving change and encourages governments and all Canadians to support these efforts in the spirit of renewed relationships and reconciliation.

"June 21 marks a critical time for First Nations in this country - a time of growing momentum toward the transformative change required for our peoples today, not tomorrow," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, referencing recent and upcoming important anniversaries - five years since the historic Apology for residential schools and 250 years since the Royal Proclamation, which first affirmed Treaty relationships and obligations between First Nations and the Crown.

"This is a critical moment, where the needs and opportunities are far too great not to act.  Now is the time for action to match words.  First Nations cannot and will not wait, and we must see concrete action by governments to support our efforts," said National Chief Atleo.  "First Nation leaders, citizens and Nations are driving change for the better from coast to coast to coast, addressing challenges head-on and based on priorities driven by the peoples and communities, and anchored in our Treaties and inherent rights.  This means schools for our children, homes for our families, fair and equitable health and education systems and the ability to drive our own economies to achieve prosperity for all of us."

The notion of a national holiday celebrating the contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada was called for by AFN in 1982, then known as the National Indian Brotherhood.  A day already known by many as Solidarity Day was formally recognized by the federal government as National Aboriginal Day in 1996 - now a day celebrated every June 21 during National Aboriginal Awareness Month, also recognized by the federal government.

The term "Aboriginal" refers to the three distinct Indigenous groups in Canada - First Nations, Métis and Inuit.  In connection with the summer solstice, special events and gatherings take place across the country celebrating First Nation, Métis and Inuit contributions and accomplishments, cultures, traditions and languages.

"Today and every day I encourage all Canadians to stand with First Nations, Métis and Inuit in this country to understand and celebrate the many important contributions and accomplishments of our peoples, and to support further progress in ways that respect Indigenous rights," said National Chief Atleo. "I commend all Indigenous peoples and all Canadians participating in events across the country, and congratulate the many cities, towns and communities collaborating and joining Indigenous nations and peoples in activities and celebrations today. Together we will draw much needed attention to the contributions and accomplishments of Indigenous peoples and move one step closer to renewed relationships and reconciliation."

AFN encourages all Canadians to learn more about the diverse Indigenous cultures of Canada by taking part in cultural events this June.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca


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