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First Nations Aboriginal Peoples In Canada - Cultures and Histories

Updated on August 24, 2015
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.

Inuits and a traditional qamutik  dog sled at Cape Dorset.
Inuits and a traditional qamutik dog sled at Cape Dorset. | Source

The People - That Is Our Name

This is what one might hear from Indigenous groups in the New World in response to arguments that they are either First Nations or Native Americans.

Innumerable groups of Indigenous Peoples use a name or names in their own languages to describe themselves only as "The People."

Some of the Indigenous around the world add a few descriptive words; for example, "The People Who Have Always Been Here" or "The Real People" (Innuits) and similar phrases. Some carry a subtext of primacy in the form of "The First and Only People" (Han of Korea). Others add geographical references; examples being "The People of the Flint" and "The People of the Big River" (Ohio River). The word Eskimo is very much out of date and considered a slur by some groups. The word Indians is a slam among some Indigenous nations, bands, and other small groups, while being accepted by others. In Ohio, we have a combination of terms in our Native American Indian Center and in Tennessee, the Native American Indian Assocation.

In North America, the terms First Nations, Aboriginal Peoples, First Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans, and several names south of the Mexican Border are government imposed and not people-chosen. None of these treaty-forced names means The People.

Research institutions often reference

  1. Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, or
  2. Native North (Mexican, Central, South) Americans and/or
  3. Pacific Islanders or
  4. Caribbean Islanders

in examining the populations of Western Hemisphere.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Trail in Ontario.
Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Trail in Ontario. | Source

Sweeping Changes

Wide ranging changes in the relationship between the Canadian Federal Government and First Nations groups preceded and permeated the Four Host First Nations' planning and implemention of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics that made history in Vancouver, British Columbia. For the first time, the Indigenous Peoples were 100% full partners and operators of an Olympic Games. Previously, they were considered more on the order of a curiosity.

One of the huge changes visible in the 21st C. is that of the number of accepted or officially recognized native bands and related groups in British Columbia rising from just over 200 in 2006 to over 600 in 2010. This is at least a 300% increase in recognition.

Native populations have inhabited North America for some 12,000 years or longer; even increasing numbers of committed Christian groups accepting that the Earth is at least that old. Older is harder to prove, because of limitations on the accuracy of carbon testing that result from variances from the mean date being too outsized to permit data to be useful past 60,000 years measured into the past.

Specific mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have been found in both Indigenous North Americans and the people of Altai 1,000s of miles to the west of BC in northern Siberian regions. When these Asians migrated and crossed the ice into North America, they first discovered America - rather than did Scandinavian Vikings. Moreover, the genetic markers have at last been spotted in Iceland (May 2011), confirming the existence of the Indigenous Peoples there long into the past. MIgrating around the Polar Circle 360 degrees, they likely discovered everything first in the Northern Hempshere.

Chukchi family and their home near the Bering Strait in the summer of 1816.
Chukchi family and their home near the Bering Strait in the summer of 1816. | Source

The First Of the First Peoples In North America

  • Canadian First Nations Discovered America First - Even though the Smithsonian Institution migration and genetics project is tracing the DNA and migration of human populations, much information is still uncatalogued. Every month, new Indigenous groups emerge and new stories are added the to human story. However, all signs point to Indigenous Asians being the first to travel into the New World across an ice bridge covering the waters near Alaska.
  • Extreme Cabin Fever -- Plubukto in Esquimaux Coping - In the DSM I, II, and III psychological diagnostic manuals, plubukto was listed as an endemic "Eskimo" mental illness. Around the Arctic Circle, life can be harsh and challenging. Living cooped up in an ice block igloo for six months led to this malady, since removed from the DSM-IV and subsequent manuals in the APA series.
  • Hubris and 10,000 Words for Eskimo Snow - Some people say "100" and some people say "17" words describe snow, and all of these people are incorrect. We really have found 44 different words in northern Aboriginal languages for snow and ice. Arguments between factions with only part of the facts has made war about how many words for snow the Inuit use. Until someone embeds himself with the Indigenous peoples around the Northern Polar CIrcle to find out, what either side of the word-war thinks is probably lacking in truth.Olympic and, afterward, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games were prepared and held on traditional First Nation lands in British Columbia, Canada.

King Island, Bering Strait: Pathway Into North America

Indigenous peoples in 1892
Indigenous peoples in 1892 | Source
  • Native American Nations in British Columbia- A large expanse of land that is likely the home to the first North American Indigenous Peoples, British Columbia was thought to support approximately 200 bands of people in 2006. By 2010, over 600 had been identified.
  • Totem Poles in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, Russia, Korea, and Japan. - Totem poles were produced in the Old World in a variety of places centuries ago, and even in the New World, before 1700.
  • A Totem Pole Is a Person: Master Carvers and Traditions of the Pacific Northwest- A Pacific Northwest carved wooden "totem" pole is a person, the story teller of a family or a community and it is a document that tells the history of its family and its chief. A chief and his wife may be cremated and buried in the pole with needs for the next life. Power animals appearing on the pole speak of the founding of the family clans by supernatural animal-humans as a part of the human foundation stories and religions. After over 100 years of recent research into "totem" poles, meaningful understanding of them and their cultural value is finally emerging in the 2010s.
  • Culture and Meaning in Totem Poles Among First Nations in Western Canada - Kwakiutl Lineage. The most famous red and yellow cedar Master Carvers are Kwakiutl and Kwakiutl-European aboriginals and descendants from the early 1800s to the 21st Century. The Father of Anthropology, Franz Boas, worked with them for 40 years. This article traces the lineages from Chief Wakius (Charlie James) and his age-cohort friends in Alert Bay on Upper Vancouver Island and across the water to mainland BC; along with Kwakiutl and Haida carvers in the Queen Charlotte Islands, or Haida Gwaii. The Kwakiutl, however, have longer unbroken lineages of carvers that present intriguing histories and works of art and memorial. This article traces lineages from Wakius through the most famous male carver globally, to the first female carver in Western Canada, and down the ages to their descendants like Bill Reid. Translations of some figures are also presented.
  • Four Host First Nations' 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics- 2010 was a historic year fr Canada and the First Nations peoples of British Columbia. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and, afterward, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games were prepared and held on traditional First Nation lands in British Columbia, Canada.

Ukivok, Bering Strait

Ukivok -Indigenous deserted village on King Island in the Bering Strait, 1978.
Ukivok -Indigenous deserted village on King Island in the Bering Strait, 1978.
A Concise History of Canada's First Nations
A Concise History of Canada's First Nations
This is a good overview and timeline of all of the Native North Americans or Aboriginal Peoples across Canada.

Migrating to the East

Aboriginals In Ontario

Aboriginal leader at the 13th Annual Canadian Aboriginal Festival in November 2006.
Aboriginal leader at the 13th Annual Canadian Aboriginal Festival in November 2006. | Source

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS


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    • profile image

      White Horse 

      9 years ago

      One of the easiest things to counterfeit might be with flint and arrowheads (knapping). I went searching for Indian artifacts about two dozen times and found a nice spear head? with the notches cut out for tying it to a stick, larger than an arrowhead. Cornfield in Champaign county Ohio. Only piece I ever found. I often wondered who the people were that made it. I compared it on some website and it matched one piece dating back to 4500 BC. I guess life is all a secret !

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you, Peter. I enjoy writing all this, but I think a 300-volume set may be only a start. It's fascinating. I am thankful for all the researcher out in the field and for the preservation porograms.

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image


      9 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      Patty, you are a very gifted writer and you use this gift for the betterment of the rest of us and I thank you for that. Your views on this subject I know are very personal to you and that gives them real meaning. Very enjoyable and a great resource. Peter

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Happy Soltices to you Beth100. Have a lot of fun in nature.

      Hello hello - Thanks for your kind wirds and taking your time to read. More recognition for native groups is coming soo I think.

      ladyt11 - Thanks for reading and enjoying this Hub.

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      I grew up and was friends with many Natives/Aboriginals... to me, they were "people", just like me and everyone around us. I never saw any differences - between me, them and everyone else (I'm ethnic, and didn't know it until someone told me one day...)

      As always, an enlightening piece of art you have written! I will have plenty to read in the next few days, but will be taking a break this weekend as we celebrate Summer Solstice! :)

      Two thumbs up Patty!


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      This is something I love to read and learn about it. I think they are such wonderful people and had a lot of wisdom about them. WE coudl learn a lot from them. Thank you for your splendid hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very interesting and enlightening hub, I will be studying this again.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I look forward with delight to your Hub on this subject, wheelinallover.

      Several people on the maternal side of my family were Mohawk, and perhaps some other nations as well. You are fortunate to have known your own grandfather, Mohawk and Canadian that he was. Cheers!

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      I would really like to know when the people of the world are going to grow up. Each and every one of us were born into the same world and should be considered an equal part of it.

      Patti it doesn't seem to matter what you would like to be called, ignorant people can turn any word or name into something derogatory. I couldn't even write the last sentence without using a label, and saying something derogatory about someone.

      "The people" had the right idea when they named, then changed names as things occurred in a persons life which were easy to remember.

      The names I answered to as a child changed several times. The one I remember most vividly translated to "bloody fingers". This name came at age 7 and continued to age 9 when I could finally do things without making my fingers bleed. LOL

      At one point in my life I didn't believe a day could pass without finger blood and pain. I am going to save that story for a hub.

      I am considered part of the indigenous people of Canada, my grandfathers people are part of Canadian history. He was Canadian and Mohawk.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Greetings drbj! - I'll need to think of a really good one-name. Thanks for reading and posting on this one. Things are happening in Canada, certainly.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      Brava, Patty, for your excellent research amd we;ll-presented information. It is a privilege to learn from your hubs.

      On the subject of adopting just one name, I did that long ago. drbj, you know.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for the new comments!

      Earth Angel - your friend's name is descriptive and fun. She needs safety goggles.

      Cardisa - Right you are!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      9 years ago from Jamaica

      I never realized it before but you are right. All throughout history, the names of the particular people always have the word "People(s)", not only in America but throughout the Amazon and other Parts of the world.

      Thank you for this very informative article.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      9 years ago

      Blessings to you Patty,

      Thank you for this GREAT Hub! I agree, we spend too much time verifying, categorizing and labeling (and going to war over) our tiny differences as People First instead of honoring our world-wide connection as a Human Tribe!

      I LOVE your single name idea; especially if chosen as a right of passage into adulthood! A unique name to live up to, not to be used as a label for limiting!

      Although I do have a friend who refers to herself as "Runs-with-Scissors" and it's pretty accurate! ;-)

      You are the BEST!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi huntgoddess! - I know I'll be reading about 100s more groups pretty soon.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I know exactly what you mean, Lynda; we had 4 designations for Hispanic peoples for several years in educational and work services - I am so weary of ethic/race names, titles, or anything of the kind - I just tell people to call me by my name and forget all rest! In fact, I'd like to have only one name, instead of first and last.

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Excellent article, Patty. As far as appropriate terms for indigenous people, political correctness becomes tedious these days, with changes coming almost daily over my years in child protection (which of course covered many First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous/Native Canadian/etc, etc, etc. I'd like someone, somewhere to come up with something acceptable to all and let me know. Lynda

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Wow, this is an amazing reference resource you have put together, Patty. It will probably take several sittings to finish reading it all, it's so rich.

      Thanks for this. It's wonderful.


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