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Home Story What To Do On National Indigenous Peoples Day In Yellowknife

What To Do On National Indigenous Peoples Day In Yellowknife

One of the biggest summer celebrations in the capital city of Yellowknife happens on June 21st – when the whole community gathers to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Here in the Northwest Territories, it’s a statutory holiday jam-packed with special festivities and community events. Back in 1982, what we now refer to as the Assembly of First Nations called for a National Aboriginal Solidarity Day; in 2001, the NWT became the first jurisdiction in Canada to make it a formal holiday.

June 21st also happens to be the summer solstice – the longest day of the year and the day that many Indigenous Peoples have traditionally celebrated their heritage, making for a truly memorable day of celebration in Yellowknife.

With so many festivities and events going on, it’s not hard to see why people recommend being in Yellowknife on June 21st to take part in cultural demonstrations and summer activities. Here is just a glimpse of what’s happening in the city.

Lunchtime Fish Fry

Starting around noon, the North Slave Métis Alliance hosts an annual fish fry and stage show at Sombe K’e Civic Plaza, a large green gathering space right in the heart of downtown Yellowknife. The event is free to attend and very popular with locals and visitors alike! You can enjoy traditional Métis, Inuit, and First Nations food, music, and dance. You’ll find Great Slave whitefish, bannock, beans, and other delectable Northern treats from skilled cooks, community members, and restaurants all over the city.

The day will be filled with  activities, music, speakers, and performances all celebrating the Indigenous cultures that call Yellowknife, the North Slave Region, and the broader territory their home. You can enjoy performances from Métis jiggers, fiddlers, Inuit throat-singers, and the Yellowknives Dene Drummers.

This day of celebration is also a great opportunity to learn more about the rich traditions of the area’s Indigenous Peoples. For those wanting to take home some incredible Indigenous crafts, local artists usually offer their beaded jewellery, birchbark baskets, moose-hair tufting, paintings, carvings and so much more.

Enjoy Hikes Around Yellowknife

The Sombe K’e Civic Plaza is located right in the heart of downtown Yellowknife, making it convenient to fill your afternoon with all sorts of city sightseeing. The plaza sits on the scenic shore of Frame Lake, and the Frame Lake walking trail brings you on a lakeside stroll through Yellowknife’s stunning greenspace. Along the trail, you’ll pass the Legislative Assembly and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre – both excellent places to learn  more about the history of the area.

You’re also just a few minutes away from the shops and amenities of Yellowknife’s downtown. While some stores may have reduced hours,many are open to the public for business or have small stalls set up around the plaza with all sorts of locally-made goods and crafts.

Head out of town to nearby Cameron Falls

The solstice is known for its  amazing summer weather, and the almost endless daylight means you can fit in a trip to the outskirts of Yellowknife without missing any of the city celebrations. You’ll find a near-infinite well of energy inside you as you venture out under the midnight sun. Getting out on the land is an important part of celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day, as the relationship with the land is an integral element of the culture and history of the Northwest Territories and its communities.

All along the Ingraham trail you’ll find pristine lakes, day-use areas, small parks, and scenic hikes – there are nearly too many options to count. Ask locals  what they’d recommend, and you’ll definitely hear a few names repeated. Cameron Falls will undoubtedly be one of them.

A 45-minute drive from Yellowknife along the Ingraham Trail, Cameron Falls is a perfect hike with a picturesque view of life on the Canadian Shield. Stroll along an easy boardwalk path, stop at picnic areas, and enjoy a well-deserved swim at the base of the falls after the trek.

More Cultural Activities

In the afternoon and evening, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation hosts activities including feeding the fire, sewing tents, canoe races, hide tanning, duck plucking, and a balloon toss. Yellowknife’s two nearest Dene communities – Dettah and N’dilo – also host a number of celebrations, activities, and opportunities to learn more about traditional stories and knowledge, as well as the timeless practices of living on the land.

An Evening In Old Town

The hours of the day may have gone by, but you’ll notice the sun hasn’t set and your day enjoying the things to do around Yellowknife isn’t over. Yellowknife’s Old Town community marks the original location of Yellowknife in its early years of settlement, and it’s one of the most scenic and interesting parts of the city.

Old Town is where you will find galleries displaying and selling art and fine crafts made by Indigenous artists from around the territory. The neighbourhood is also decorated with stunning murals, educational plaques, and historic buildings; they tell more about the city of Yellowknife and the area’s significance to Indigenous Peoples well before then.

Head up to Pilot’s Monument to enjoy an extraordinarily long and beautiful sunset playing out across the sky. You can also turn right down to the waterfronts on Back Bay or Houseboat Bay and dip your toes in the water reflecting the warm, colourful skies above.

Bask in Long Hours of Summer Sunlight

The day never seems to end  in Yellowknife, but with so much to experience and enjoy, you’ll find time flies by faster than you would anticipate. As June 21st comes to a close, don’t fret if there is something you missed – Yellowknife is a bustling and beautiful city all throughout the summer. On National Indigenous Peoples Day the city gathers specifically to celebrate the cultures and history of Indigenous people, but those sorts of experiences remain rather  accessible at any time of year in Yellowknife.

Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day in Yellowknife is a lively and unforgettable experience where visitors can really immerse themselves in the culture of the North. You’ll find opportunities to gain an authentic and impactful understanding of the NWT’s Indigenous cultures and celebrate with the community.

There’s no better way to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day than spending it in the NWT.

Every community across the NWT has its own timeless history of storytelling through art. Read more to learn what makes each practice unique and where you can find authentic Indigenous art from artists across the territory.

The Northwest Territories is made spectacular by the thriving cultures, deep histories, and rich traditions of the people who call it home. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the authentic art and culture of the NWT on your visit through the North.

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