Aboriginal Perspectives (9/10)

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It’s always important to remember that when the French and the English settled in Canada, they were not alone. The land was inhabited.

Aboriginal people in Canada are recognized in the Canadian Constitution respectively as Indians, Metis, and Inuit.

  • The Indians (or First Nations) live throughout most of Canada. There are 614 First Nations communities, most of them in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • The Métis (1% of the Canadian population) are descendants of marriages of Cree, Ojibway, Saulteaux, and Menominee to French Canadians, Scots and English (“métis” means “mixed” in French). They live in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, and in the the Northwest Territories.
  • The Inuits (about 150 000 people) live throughout most of the Canadian Arctic and subarctic: in Nunavut (“our land“); in Northern Quebec, Nunavik (“place to live“); in Labrador in Nunatsiavut (“Our Beautiful Land“); and in the Northwest Territories (Arctic Ocean and Yukon).

The course of Aboriginal history has been deeply altered since the settlers came to Canada. Indeed, the laws (like the Indian Act) they imposed would affect the relationship between the two parts.

When the Europeans arrived, they brought their own way of life and methods to a land that Aboriginals had owned for ever. However, after an initial period of wars and conflicts, treaties were signed and the relationship stabilized around the 18th century. But between 1763 and 1791, two acts would call for land cession negotiations. For the first time, the Aboriginal were expected to give up their rights to the land in order for large-scale colonial settlement to take place. Eventually, the balance of power began to shift as the British consolidated their empire and that gave way to a policy of assimilation of Aboriginals — as well as the attitude that they were not equal to British, but subjects.

Throughout the years, the federal government continued to pursue a policy of assimilation of Aboriginals. A dark page in Canadian history was when the government started placing Aboriginal children into Western Canadian residential schools during the late 1800s. Many Natives resisted with these moves to destroy their culture.

When Canada signed the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it was forced to re-examine its treatment of Aboriginals for the first time. Aboriginal civil rights became an ongoing concern in the 1970s, and they would make significant gains during this period. For example, the territory of Nunavut was created in 1999 following land claim.

Aboriginal people still face a number of issue in today’s Canada. A very high unemployment rate, substance abuse, crime, violence are not to be underestimated. Meanwhile,there are also claim to receive inadequate funding for education, and allege their rights have been overlooked.

Canada has now adopted some of the Inuit culture as a national identity: symbols are used (such as the inukshuk for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games), Inuit and First Nations’ art is displayed in the best galleries throughout the country and organizations promote and defend Aboriginals’ rights. The culture is still alive… and vibrant.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Salut Zhu,

    May all North Americans never forget who are the real Canadians.All who followed are just walking on their footsteps.

    I have no blood ties to the native North Americans, but as a US citizen, I feel ashamed and sad when I see how my country treats it’s Native American population.

    Really cool pictures, Zhu 😉

    Have a great Sunday.

    barbara’s last blog post..Just more expat things… in a meme

  2. Hello Zhu,

    This is such a wonderful post, i really loved it!

    Canada did it in 1999 and Australia, through Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had apologized several weeks ago in behalf of all Australians for their treatment of aboriginals beginning in 1910 with their policy of assimilation that lasted until late 1970’s. This was referred to as “the lost generation” where children were taken from parents to live with white families.

    This policy resulted in abuses, untold suffering, dislocation, cultural damage, loss of identity, among others. The effect is the same such as drug abuse, unemployment, lack of education, etc. Australia has recognized the rights of aboriginals and are poised to correct their marginalization in terms of social and economic benefits.I did a post on the Australian apology the day it was made.

    I am also following up on the plight of the Native Americans. The most outspoken leader is Russel Means, and I have been in touch with him and his group to provide whatever support we can give. Money is difficult, but even in America, they are largely ignored.

    People’s rights are violated all over the world. In my own country, we have been working with our aboriginals and have made laws to protect their lands and way of life, but a huge need still exists.Benefits to those who would want to get an education are given for free. Livelihood and mainstreaming of their produce are efforts that continue.

    These things are close to the core of my interest, hence Tibet. But we have also geared our efforts to those in the country and are undertaking other activities in other Asian, Middle East and African nations through UN engagements and with the EU.

    There is much to learn from them and the way they preserve the ecological balance. Technology we refer to is often based on the mass production mentality of an input-output thinking, which leads to more problems than solutions.

    Great effort! Congratulations for recognizing this blight in the history of the world. 🙂 –Durano, done!

    durano lawayan’s last blog post..The Risk of Rumors in Rice Reserves

  3. Thank you Zhu for the history lesson.
    Human- and civil-rights for everyone
    is a wonderful goal. By honoring the
    past, we make a better future for all
    of us. It’s said history repeats itself.
    I think there is room for improvement.

    Seraphine’s last blog post..The Waiting Game

  4. We should treasure the natives and help their cultures to thrive. However in my country, the natives were given too much help at the expense of the immigrants’ (Chinese and Indians) rights. Sigh…

    kyh’s last blog post..In the midst of…

  5. I love that totem pole! Great post. I hope it helps people remember just who was there first and to give them the respect they deserve. Same thing goes for the U.S., but from your post I would say Canada is doing a better job of addressing the problem.

    Theresa’s last blog post..Kukuxumusu!

  6. My great (not sure how many times great,lol) grandparents were the victims of the Deerfield massacre and were kidnapped and raised by the Indians in Canada (Quebec). The Indians changed their names even. I have alot written about it on my Genealogy blog. It’s very interesting.
    I love visiting your blog, I’m always learning something new! Great pictures 🙂

    Tanya’s last blog post..Baseball Pictures Today

  7. Thanks for enlightening your readers to Native American and Canadian culture. I myself am ignorant with regard to these aspects, and I appreciate your informative posts. Cultural heritage topics interest me highly, and they influence my choice of vacation destinations (that’s why I am heading to Machu Picchu this May). I should plan a visit north of the border (come to think of it, I am so close to the Canadian border) sometime soon.

    Linguist-in-Waiting’s last blog post..Magnus is Born

  8. That sort of reminded me that I ought to read up on Canadian history. I am assuming Canada didn’t exist as a seperate country when the Europeans landed in North America. After all, all the ‘original’ inhabitants were called Indians, because they thought they had landed in India.

    Shantanu’s last blog post..The Best Lounges and Bars in Pune

  9. @Spyder – You’re definitely a very interesting person. I didn’t know that! I bet you’re proud of your heritage… should be!

    @barbara – A great though. I think we have a lot to learn from people who managed to survive in such an hostile country, cold and isolated at first.

    @durano lawayan – Very interesting comment… as usual! From my “outsider” point of view, I found New Zealand was the country who tried the most to straighten the mistake of the past. However, I was pretty shocked to see the condition in which lived Aboriginals in Australia…

    I think Canada is somewhere in between. Definitely trying now though.

    @Seraphine – I totally agree with you. Turning a blind eye at some dark past isn’t going to help…

    @kyh – It’s never easy to find a right middle. When situation has been wrong for some time, it doesn’t get better overnight…

    @Theresa – Thanks! The totem pole is downtown Ottawa in one of the city busiest area. I love it too 😉

    Not sure if Canada is doing a better job… I learned a lot these last few years about the past and felt quite bad about it, even though I’m not Canadian… But I’m confident it’s getting better.

    @Tanya – I’m curious now, I’m going to read the whole story on your genealogy blog!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Oh lucky you, you’re gonna love Macchu Picchu, it’s an awesome place! Are you staying in Cuzco? Buy some gold there 😉

    @Shantanu – I learned little by little and it’s really interesting… for such a new country, Canada has quite a lot of history — some glorious, some not so…

    @Theresa – Gonna be over in a sec!

    @Art – Thank you! Yes, it’s history… hard to carry sometimes on our shoulders.

  10. Max Coutinho on

    Hi again,

    Gorgeous photos, Zhu!! 😀
    The natives’ history is sad indeed. They were so disrespected, depleted from their land and rights, not to mention their dignity. However I think that it is time to move on! This reminds me of the black people in the United States and their past and all the things that come with it, up to this date (ridiculous)!
    I say that the oppressed people rises and fights to prove that they are as capable as the next one without the need for special laws and “favours”. Be proud, be strong and show them what you are capable of.

    Cause special laws just encourages natives (and minoraties in the USA) to lay back and relax, since their backs are covered *nodding*.
    And at the same time is the a way of telling them “we are so much better than you, and to prove it we will do you a favour and create a special law for the special you!”…please!

    I say: get up and fight! Yes, we can; sí, se puede; si può fare; é possível; on peut le faire!!! 😀

    Great post, darling! It got me all perked up! Ready to fight lol…


    Max Coutinho’s last blog post..Will

  11. Kristen Measures on

    Hi Zhu.

    I love the pictures by the way.

    I’m doing a project in Social Studies class about different perspectives of Canadian national identity. I’m doing the Aboriginal perspective of Canadian national identity. So, what do you all think about Aboriginal’s perspective of Canadian national identity?

  12. Great post! I love that you are informing and educating your readers on Native Peoples :). One thing though … most Indigenous Peoples find the word “Indian” offensive. Some use it as a reclamation act, but in Canada First Nations is the most accepted term. Although in the world political viewpoint and now the most PC word is “Indigenous.” Just a friendly fyi :).

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