National Indigenous History Month

June 20, 2024
Mishiikenh Kwe stands next to their mural titled Star stories on the second floor of the SNOLAB surface building.

In June, Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, culture and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength and resilience of present-day Indigenous communities.  

June 21st is National Indigenous People’s Day, and it is also the summer solstice – the longest day of the year and a traditional day of celebration marking the end of winter, longer days, and renewed life. The phenomenon of the summer solstice is due to the tilt of the Earth. In June, the North Pole is tilted most directly toward the Sun, giving those in the northern hemisphere longer daylight hours. 

Indigenous Peoples have been using the stars and the sky as a means of navigation, measuring time, and tracking seasons. Much of this knowledge is translated and shared through stories. The Anishinaabek, the Indigenous people native to the Greater Sudbury area, draw connections between constellations and seasonal changes, as told in sky stories. Sky stories can tell of seasonal changes, harvests or animal migrations that occur during the season when a specific constellation is overhead. Indigenous knowledge and western science may be seen as separate but are merely different ways of understanding the same natural phenomena. 

Last year, local artist and knowledge keeper, Will Morin, created a piece of artwork called “Agaashiinyi: It is small” that now hangs in the lobby of SNOLAB. The piece uses language and symbols to interpret our connection to the cosmos and the work underway at SNOLAB from an Indigenous lens. 

The same year, an emerging local artist Mishiikenh Kwe (Autumn Smith) painted a mural on the second floor of our surface building titled “Star stories”. The piece honours Indigenous astronomy and features elements of sky stories that were told to her by her grandmother growing up. 

By listening to Indigenous people and hearing their perspectives, we can begin to gain understanding and respect, and work towards reconciliation. Below is a list of resources you may find useful for learning and professional development: