Native North American Nations in British Columbia Include Over 600 Groups
Indigenous British Columbia
This is the Canadian portion of the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite areas in North America to visit and spend time. It is clean, lush and peaceful and the people are friendly.
The Province of British Columbia, Canada, including Vancouver Island and its tribal, historic, and resort areas, is the richest site of Native American peoples, materials, and information in the Western Hemisphere. DNA tracking brings Indigenous Peoples to the North American continent through what is now Alaska, from the northern and Sub-Arctic lands of Europe, European and Asian Russia, and Asia at least 10K-12K years before the 21st Century.
Spreading eastward and southward in the ensuing centuries, these people that are now-indigenous to North, Central, and South America and related territories have been grouped politically under various umbrella names.
These names include the obsolete "Eskimo", which comprises the Inuit and related nations; First Nations, First Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans, and several names south of the US/Mexico border. The names are recognized officially by the large political governments in the associated countries or states and Indigenous Peoples of the Americas or Native Americans can be used for all in the Western Hemisphere for the purpose of this series.
For instance, the Mohawk Nation (half of my heritage) resides in both Canada and the USA/America and many of it few remaining groups often prefer one of two traditional nation or tribal names rather than First Nation or Native American, the latter two being federal designations of European-initiated governments.
The body of anthropological research generally accepts that northern peoples of the Eastern Hemisphere traveled eastward, migrating across the Bering Strait when it comprised land above water. These peoples entered into what is now Alaska and Canada; some migrating northward, eastward, and southward all the way down to the tip of South America and back north up into the Ohio Valley; and so on.
The northern Canadian tribes or nations continued over the Great Rocky Mountains eastward and some descended into New England and the NE United States as well, as others migrated into the Ohio Valley and/or continued to the Northeast. Intermixing of separated groups occurred in centuries future, from time to time.
The Altai people of Northern Siberia are particularly evident in the ancestry of not only Koreans, but of Native Americans up and down the Western Hemisphere of all the Americas. This is found in DNA testing, as well as in similarities of cultures and beliefs in the traditions of the Pacific Northwest Native American Nations. These similarities extend to other native peoples in Canada and the Americas, demonstrated in DNA testing tracked by a National Geographic project.
Under the former Soviet Union, national cultural festivals, which I was able to view once on TV in America on a PBS documentary later, offered demonstrations and presentations by various segments of culture in the USSR. The most powerful to me was the introduction of The People of The North (the Altai and other Northern Siberians) as they drove their sleighs and Caribou into the ring.
Dressed in beautiful heavy animal skins and furs to keep warm in their -75°F degree winters, the mere presence of these noble man and women, even the children, brought a hush to the venue. There was great respect and awe shown to these people and perhaps a little fear; because, what people can survive in such cold without artificial heat? Perhaps they can survive anything and are a people to be reckoned with, as they say.
As part Native American and able to speak some Russian as well, I have the deepest respect for the Altai and related peoples and the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest that descended from them. When I visit BC, I do not want to leave.
- Explore Aboriginal Events and Experiences in Canada
- First Nations Collections | Royal BC Museum
This is a high quality museum that I have visited. I recommend it to all who travel to or live in Victoria BC.
- Permanent Exhibits | Campbell River Museum
Campbell River Museum
- Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Working towards the recognition, implementation and exercise of our inherent Indigenous Title, Rights and Treaty Rights
Famous First Nations: The Haida
Anthropology and popular literature, tourism and the travel industry place a substantial amount of emphasis on the Haida nation and its location in the Queen Charlotte Islands of the northwest Coast of British Columbia.
It is possible that as Asian peoples migrated into northwest Canada, some stayed in the area, especially on the Queen Charlotte Islands; the Haida are their descendants.
Like so many Native American and Asian group names, "Haida" comes from the word "Hidery", which means "the people." In Korea, the term "Han" takes the same meaning.
The Haida seems to be the oldest traceable population of humans in the Western Hemisphere. Politically, Canada recognizes the Haida as a First Nation people. They have been proficient in arts, including expert woord sculptures, totem poles, lineage crest painting, and tattoo arts. They have been whalers and have gathered many ideas for art from the sea.
Their indigenous language is also Haida. Among these people, it is said in legend that they are invincibly fierce warriors. Many wear tattoos that symbolize their family crests, much like the knights of England displayed crests on their shields and banners. The Haida wear theirs permanently engraved on their chests, backs and shoulders and sometimes on the thigh and forearm, even the fingers. Other tattoos, especially lines running from lower lip to bottom of the chin mark them as worthy of entering the afterlife.
Haida family crests include images of living creatures: the black whale, the grizzly bear, the dogfish, the dragonfly, the frog and some 65 others. Above that delineation, Haida are separated into two classes or moieties called Raven and Eagle. It is the Raven that represents the Creator and this bird is seen on many totem poles in the area.
Raven and Eagle people are further divided into specific Clans that are tracked through the female lineage. Any crest will show an indication of either Raven or Eagle and after that, a Clan and possibly the family line. These crests are put on one's possessions, whether it is a canoe or a song one has written.
The Haida are recognized as the most accomplished artists of the First Nations, decorating themselves with a variety and number of tattoos that no other coastal First Nation used. Although falling into disuse in the 20th century, some Haida still practice tattoo arts. Males most often sport ink on the back between the shoulder blades, chest, thighs and below the knees, while females most often have used tattoos on the face, lower chest and breasts, shoulders, and from their knees to their ankles. Animal symbols inked onto the hands and forearms represent the family name.
Over 600 Groups in BC
Since the year 2007 and the work towards partnering with the Four Host First Nations in BC for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, many more community bands of First Nations have received special attention.
This is in addition to the Metis that number 50,000 (in 2011).The BC Provincial and the Canadian Federal Government. have formed new treaties and accords with the Indigenous populations and begun work with bands not yet under treaty. Preservation of arts, cultures, and languages is a priority, as well as native health and economies.
Some bands are growing; for instance the Kwakiutl increased from a census figure in 2001 of 305 presons to an April 2011 reigistry of 705, nearly double.
Overall, several major language groups divide the various BC bands and nations, according to these linguistic families:
- Haidan - This linguistic family includes the language of the Haida (prominent in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia).
- Kutenaian - The Kutenai language
- Salishan (Salish)
- Bella Coola, Comox, Halkomelem, Lilloet, Okanagan, Sechelt, Shuswap, Squamish, Straits, and the Thompson languages.
- Tlingit - The inland Tlingit language. Allong with the Inuit, people in general consider these groups as "Eskimo." The area of Esquimalt on Vancouver Island is linked to such group names.
- Tsimshian - Coast Tsimshian and Nass-Gitksan languages.
- Wakashan - The languages in this linguistic family include those of the Haisla, Heiltsuk, Kwakiutl and Nootka First Nations.
Native North American Groups in Vancouver Island and Queen Charlotte Islands.
- Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs - 440 West Hastings Street. Vancouver, BC.
- United Native Nations - 8th Floor, 736 Granville Street. Vancouver, British Columbia. Toll free: 1-800-555-9756
- Cowichan Band Admin. and Cowichan Band Council - Duncan and Lake Cowichan, BC.
- Songhees Band Admin. Office - Victoria, BC, Canada,
- Esquimalt Indian Band - Victoria, BC.
- Council of the Haida Nation - Masset, BC: Old Massett Village Council and Skidegate bands.
- Skidegate Indian Band - Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, BC.
- North Coast Tribal Council - Prince Rupert, BC. Member Bands: Hartley Bay, Kincolith, Kitkatla, Old Massett Village Council, Metlakatla, Skidegate.
- Nanaimo First Nations1145 Totem Road. Nanaimo, BC.
- Squamish Nation - North Vancouver, BC.
- Kamloops Indian Band - Kamloops, BC.
Haida Heritage Centre
First Nations Stories
The beginning of the legend of Ogopogo is unknown. Native Americans in BC tell a tale of a demon-possessed man who killed another known as Old Kan-He-K (Lake Okanagan where Ogopogo lives was named in his honor). As punishment, the Creator transformed the killer into a lake serpent, trapped at the scene of the crime forever. The serpent was named N'HA A ITK, or Lake Demon.
Recorded sightings of Ogopogo go back to the early 1800s. He is said to have a snake-like body 15-70 feet long, 2-5 feet in diameter and dark green skin. His head resembles a horse or goat with a beard.
In 1926, the Canadian government announced a ferry line built for travel across the lake would be equipped with monster-repelling devices.
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS