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Let’s celebrate National Aboriginal Day with educational resources

Tuesday, June 21st marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day in Canada. It’s a great opportunity to discuss Aboriginal peoples’ traditions and important contributions that have been made in our country. Explore our ArcGIS Online resources with an aboriginal focus that can be used in your teaching.

In 1996, then Governor General Roméo LeBlanc declared National Aboriginal Day on June 21st in Canada to honour the “valuable contributions aboriginal people have made to Canadian society and to mark and celebrate these contributions and to recognize the different cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.” Aboriginal peoples of Canada comprise of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

National Aboriginal Day Image from Prince's Charities Canada & Birch Hill Equity Partners, 2016.

This year, people will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of this important day with events across Canada. As an educator, you can also get involved by integrating an Esri Canada educational resource into your teaching that will allow your students to learn about the history and culture of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

The Canadian Arctic and the Northwest Passage
In this web activity, students will explore the Canadian Arctic and its people, the history of the Northwest Passage and the importance of maintaining a strong Canadian presence in the northern region.

The Red River and Northwest Rebellions
The Red River and Northwest Rebellions of 1869 – 1885 were pivotal events in shaping Canada’s history. Making connections between these events and their causes, consequences and implications will demonstrate their repercussions and influences even now in the 21st century.

In this lesson, students will identify key events, battles and persons during the rebellions. They’ll also investigate how the rebellions affected each another and how they continue to affect us today.

Using the Canadian Arctic and the Northwest Passage web activity, students will explore the Canadian Arctic and its people, the history of the Northwest Passage and the importance of maintaining a strong Canadian presence in the northern region.

Communities in Nunavut
This web map displays the communities of Nunavut. Click on the points to view a description that includes the community name in the Inuit languages of Inuktitut and Ininnaqtun, the translation of the place name and the population in 2011. Click on the image provided in each pop-up to open a website that provides additional information about the community.

Traditional Inuit Place Names in Nunavut
Inuit place names describe physical or cultural features in the landscape. Across the territory, there are examples and variations abound of Qikiqtarjuaq (big island) and Tasiujarjuaq (big lake). Additional names describe fishing lakes and rivers and tidal pools “where the char go to digest their food”, walrus haul outs, spring camping areas (seal hunting), caribou hunting areas, hazardous areas (currents), as well as a multitude of other illustrative names.

Aboriginal Peoples of North America
In this lesson, students will explore the Aboriginal and European settlements in North America circa 1630, 1740 and 1823. Specifically,  students will use ArcGIS Online to discover the diversity of the Aboriginal peoples and their way of life. They’ll also explore the distribution of the settlements of Aboriginal peoples who first inhabited Canada and early European settlers. Natural Resources Canada has provided the data used in this lesson from a  documented  and recorded European perspectives.

Interviewing Aboriginal Elders
Elders have wisdom about traditional knowledge, customary recipes, spiritual ceremonies, healing practices and environmental observations that they can share with the youth in their community. In this lesson and its associated activities, students will identify questions they would like to ask the Elders of their community, create a GeoForm application to record the answers and build an operation view of the information to summarize the results.

This web map is from the Aboriginal Peoples of North America showing Aboriginal settlements in 1630 by population range.

Learn to create your own Aboriginal focused web map or map application (app) with the following resources:

Introduction to ArcGIS Online
Use this tutorial to learn how to create your own web map.

Creating a Map Journal Story Map
Use this tutorial to learn how to create your own map journal story map.

Find more Esri Canada resources at and explore our ArcGIS Online content in the ArcCanada group.

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, you can request an account in a K-12 subscription at

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander