International Indigenous People's Day


International Indigenous People's Day

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August 9th is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It is an important time to raise awareness of the needs of Indigenous peoples globally.

Established by the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 49/214 in 1994, August 9th marks the day the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights met for the first time in 1982. Each year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commemorates the day by sharing information on projects and activities related to an annual theme. The 2021 theme is “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.”

It is estimated there are at least 370 – 500 million Indigenous peoples living around the world; approximately 6% of the global population. Indigenous peoples and communities hold diverse and unique cultures and knowledge systems. Collectively they speak almost 7,000 languages. In British Columbia, there are approximately 270,000 Indigenous people (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), comprising 5.9% of the  province’s population. There are 198 distinct First Nations, and 34 different languages and approximately 60 dialects are spoken. This represents more than 60% of all Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. Indigenous peoples play a key role in sustaining cultural and, through special relationships with their traditional lands, biological diversity around the world yet many Indigenous communities face ongoing marginalization, poverty, and other human rights violations.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs states:

“Indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decision-making is a key component in achieving reconciliation between indigenous peoples and States. Therefore, a new social contract must combat the legacy of exclusion and marginalization affecting indigenous peoples — through their meaningful and effective participation and the obtainment of their free, prior and informed consent [FPIC]. Consequently, it will lead to meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].”

The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected everyone equally. Indigenous communities often have insufficient infrastructure, and health and safety resources. This has enhanced the impacts of the pandemic on these communities beyond what is felt in non-Indigenous populations. One of the key elements of modern treaties in British Columbia is the recognition and transfer of jurisdiction on matters essential to the well-being and survival of Indigenous peoples. Treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements serve to implement and protect Indigenous rights, including the right to self-governance, FPIC, and other rights outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). To read more about how treaties do this, read our 2020 Annual Report.  These growing global inequalities drive the unequal impacts of the pandemic. It is with this in mind that the UN’s 2021 commemorative event will be exploring ideas for new, better and more inclusive social contracts that will include the rights contained in the UN Declaration.


Learn More

To learn more about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the work of the UN to address inequality, visit their website.

To register and participate in the UN’s celebrations on August 9th (6:00 – 8:00 AM PST), register here. You can also watch the events live via the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Facebook page. Translation will only be available for registered attendees.

The Native Land interactive map provides information on where different Indigenous languages are spoken, as well as information about traditional territories and treaties.


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