Saturday, June 21, 2008

National Aboriginal Day

Death of Tecumseh

In case you weren’t aware, it’s National Aboriginal Day, a celebration honouring the cultural contributions of First Nation, Inuit and Metis people. First proclaimed 12 years ago by a Liberal government, National Aboriginal Day is held on June 21 because of the cultural significance of the first day of summer, the longest day of the year and the rebirth of Mother Earth.

Pictured above is the Death of Tecumseh from a frieze in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. Tecumseh, a brilliant Shawnee Indian chief, warrior, and orator, is shown being fatally shot by the American Colonel Johnson at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada (near Chatham, to be exact) during the War of 1812. Tecumseh and his followers joined forces with the British to resist the encroachment of settlers on Indian territory. For whatever it’s worth, Tecumseh is ranked 37th in The Greatest Canadian list, but some might argue his importance far exceeds such an insignificant tribute in light of his critical role in the defence of Canada during the War of 1812.

Victoria Totems

On a more strictly “cultural” note, from a decidedly local perspective, could anyone possibly imagine Victoria without our totem poles? It’s unthinkable. These, by the way, aren’t just rotting old artifacts of the Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakiutl, Tlingit, Tsimshian and other west coast tribes. The practice carries on to this day through new generations of native artists and carvers dedicated to preserving the history of our local native heritage as well as honouring tribal rituals and sacred spirits of aboriginal people.