Portal:Indigenous peoples in Canada

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The Indigenous peoples in Canada Portal
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A life-sized bronze statue of an Indigenous person and eagle above him; there is  a bear to his right and a wolf to his left, they are all looking upwards towards a blue and white sky
The Canadian Aboriginal veterans monument
in Confederation Park, Ottawa.
Noel Lloyd Pinay, 2001.
Photo by Padraic Ryan ca. 2007.

In Section thirty-five of the 1982 Canadian Constitution Act, Indigenous peoples in Canada comprise the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The descriptors "Indian" and "Eskimo" are falling into disuse. Old Crow Flats and Bluefish Caves are some of the earliest archaeological sites of human habitation in Canada. The Paleo-Indian Clovis, Plano cultures and Pre-Dorset pre-date American indigenous and Inuit cultures. Projectile point tools, spears, pottery, bangles, chisels and scrapers mark archaeological sites, thus distinguishing cultural periods, traditions and lithic reduction styles.

Hundreds of Indigenous nations evolved trade, spiritual and social hierarchies. The Métis culture of mixed blood originated in the mid-17th century when First Nation and native Inuit married European settlers. The Inuit had more limited interaction with European settlers during that early period. Various laws, treaties, and legislation have been enacted between European immigrants and First Nations across Canada. Indigenous Right to Self-Government provides opportunity to manage historical, cultural, political, health care and economic control aspects within first people's communities.

There are currently over 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands encompassing 1,172,790 2006 peoples spread across Canada with distinctive Indigenous cultures, languages, art, music and beliefs. National Aboriginal Day recognises the cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples to the history of Canada. In all walks of life First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have become prominent figures serving as role models in the Indigenous community and help to shape the Canadian cultural identity.

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"Loon, Serpentine" - Itulu Itidluie, Cape Dorset.

Inuit art refers to artwork produced by Inuit, that is, the people of the Arctic also known as Eskimos, a term that may be deemed offensive outside Alaska. Historically their preferred medium was ivory, but since the establishment of southern markets for Inuit art in 1945, prints and figurative works carved in relatively soft stone such as soapstone, serpentinite, or argillite have also become popular.

All of the Inuit utensils, tools and weapons were made by hand from natural materials: stone, bone, ivory, antler, and animal hides. Nomadic people could take very little else with them besides the tools of their daily living; non-utilitarian objects were also carved in miniature so that they could be carried around or worn, such as delicate earrings, dance masks, amulets, fetish figures, and intricate combs and figures which were used to tell legends and objectify their mythology and oral history.

As the Inuit settled into communities in the late 1940s, their carvings became larger, and the requests to produce them as artwork increased. The Government of Canada recognized the potential economic benefit of commercial art to the isolated Arctic communities, and encouraged the development and promotion of Inuit sculpture. This encouragement was initially heavy-handed, as is most clearly shown by the pamphlet "Eskimo Handicrafts", circulated among Inuit communities in the early 1950s. Intended to provide inspiration to Inuit sculptors, this pamphlet depicted artifacts in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization; many of the objects pictured, such as totem poles, were not germane to Inuit culture. James Archibald Houston, the author of Eskimo Handicrafts, was later sent to Baffin Island to collect specimens of Inuit sculpture. During his stay there, he introduced printmaking to the artists' repertoire. Figures of animals and hunters, family scenes, and mythological imagery became popular. By the 1960s, co-operatives were set up in most Inuit communities, and the Inuit art market began to flourish.

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A statue of Shanawdithit, at the Boyd's Cove Beothuk site in Newfoundland.

Shanawdithit (c. 1801 – June 6, 1829), also referred to as Shawnadithit, Shawnawdithit, and Nancy April, was the last recorded surviving member of the Beothuk people of Newfoundland, Canada. She died of tuberculosis on 6 June 1829 in St. John's. She was born circa 1801 near a large lake in Newfoundland. At the time, the population of the Beothuk was dwindling. Their traditional way of life was affected by the establishment of white settlements on the island. Their access to the sea, a major food source, was slowly being cut off. Trappers and furriers regarded the Beothuks as thieves and attacked them to keep them away. As a child, Shanawdithit was shot by a trapper while washing venison in a river, though she was not severely injured and recovered. The people suffered from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), introduced by European contact, to which they had no immunity and for which the Europeans had no cures or prevention. After the 1819 capture of Demasduwit, the aunt of Shanawdithit, the few remaining Beothuk people fled from the British.

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Eskimo Family NGM-v31-p564.jpg
The traditional lifestyle of the Inuit is adapted to extreme climatic conditions; their essential skills for survival are hunting and trapping. Agriculture was never possible in the millions of square kilometers of tundra and icy coasts from Siberia to Northern America and Greenland. Hunting is at the core of Inuit culture.
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Indigenous Amerindian genetic studies indicate that the first inhabitants of the Americas share a single ancestral population, one that developed in isolation, conjectured to be Beringia. The isolation of these peoples in Beringia might have lasted 10,000—20,000 years.

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Haisla baton (UBC-2010a).jpg
A well preserved Haisla baton at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC


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