We were here first.

Christopher Columbus never found North America, we did, thousands of years ago. I hear tell that good of Chris was lost on his way to China and was way off course by thousands of nautical miles and suffering from scurvy, no less. Heck, if he hadn’t “found” us, would there be a Department of Indian Affairs, or would it most probably be called Chinese Affairs? Who knows what kind of riffraff and flotsam would have washed up on our shores? If the now-extinct Beothuk didn’t drive off those Danish scourges way back in the ancient days, we would probably be part of Greenland and be eating Edam cheese for all we know.

Today, National Aboriginal Day has been set on the longest day and shortest night of the year, just the right time for some all night dancing. Whoowee! Gonna dance all night long (at least I used to back in the seventies, when every day was Indian day). I think it is appropriate that we (or the government) appointed the 21a of June to be our hallowed day and celebrated throughout Canada by not going to work. Band offices, eager to join the extra long weekend with another holiday have seen employees slip out the door early in the afternoon, not to seen again until May.

I remember when the thought of us Indians having our own national holiday was in the same train of thought as when the U.S. commemorated Martin Luther King Day. Didn’t someone have to martyred first, like those Jesuit priests that the Iroquois burnt at the stake many years ago, then celebrated as St. Jean the Baptiste and then converted with a political overtone to the Fete Nationale? How many people had to be sacrificed before a day could be set aside to amplify the role that our people had in the making of this country?

Questions aside, I’m like the others, glad that we have a day off with pay. However, for those thousands of aboriginal people who cannot get gainful employment, this is like any other day. Perhaps, a little recognition from fellow countrymen would be in order. Back in my school days in a little town called Ottawa, the Odowa Friendship Centre played a big role in getting the government to recognize us as a people, using the Pow-wow as a powerful forum to show common folks who lined Bank Street and the Rideau on a daily basis, that, yes indeed, / aboriginal people are real people. When the day comes and we get to celebrate a day that will be recognized around the world,

(at least the northern hemisphere) then I will go back to the days when I danced all night long. Since my trick knee only works well during the colder months and my stamina for such activities is waning, I’ll choose the shorter nights.

However, since it is National Aboriginal Day across this country, I’ll see if I can disappear until the next time summer comes around and celebrate all year round the heritage that has carried me this far in life. I wish everyone a good long weekend and remember, don’t drink and light up fireworks at the same time.