Aboriginal peoples in Canada

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This article is about the people who inhabited Canada prior to European settlement, and their present-day descendents. They frequently prefer the terms "Native", or "First Nations" to refer to them; "Aboriginal" is more technical and also found in legal writings; "Indigenous" is probably least preferred by the people themselves.


"Aboriginal peoples manage resources within the norm of common property. This norm exhibits several key characteristics:

  1. It is community based, and its efficiency draws on local knowledge and expertise.
  2. It relies on co-operative labour.
  3. The harvests are shared among all members of the community, with members taking 'only what they need.' Ojibway phrases such as otaapinan aatagoo kaa'abichitewin ('take only what you need') and meegiweh ('give it away') reflect values still prized by Ojibway people."

-- from Andrew Chapeskie, "Liberating Canada from the Settler Mythology", in John Bird, Lorraine Land, and Murray MacAdam, eds., Nation to Nation: Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada, 2002, pp 80-81.


"Non-Aboriginal Canadians have to face up to their part in the historical process that has amounted to the near 'cultural genocide' of Aboriginal nations. Most law-abiding Canadians believe they carved out their own niche by virtue of hard work or the labours of their ancestors, and find it unthinkable that they are implicated in this historic tragedy. This perception has to change: all non-Aboriginal Canadians have benefited tremendously from assimilation polices, seizure of Aboriginal land and government defaults on solemn treaties."

-- from Tim Schouls, "The Basic Diemma: Sovereignty or Assimilation", in John Bird, Lorraine Land, and Murray MacAdam, Nation to Nation: Aborignal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada, 2002, p 14.

George Erasmus, who is former head of the Assembly of First Nations, and Joe Sanders, an advisor to the AFN, have described the Native view of land ownership. It is very different than that of the capitalist Canadian state. “Ownership of land in the Anglo-Canadian ‘fee simple’ sense of title was foreign to the thinking and systems of First Nations. Land was revered as a mother from which all life came, and was to be preserved for future generations as it had been from time immemorial. Land was used for common benefit, with no individual having a right to any more of it than another. A nation’s traditional hunting grounds were recognized by its neighbours as ‘belonging’ to that nation, but this was different from the idea of private ownership. For the most part, the boundaries were not delineated, although some nations in British Columbia had systems of identifying their boundaries and passing on custodial responsibilities. First Nations peoples, then and now, believe that they live with the land, not simply on it.” -- from George Erasmus and Joe Sanders, “Canadian History: An Aboriginal Perspective”, in John Bird, Lorraine land, and Murray MacAdam, eds., Nation to Nation: Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada 2002, p 5.

Stan McKay, a Cree spiritual leader from Manitoba has written: "The political process that has become known as 'land claims,' and in which many of our First Nations are involved with the federal and other governments, is devastating to our cultural values. In order to participate in the process, our statements and language are forced to become sterile and technical. Our documents must be written in language suggested by lawyers and understood by judges. The legal jargon we must use contains concepts of ownership that directly contradict our spiritual understanding of life.

“As a marginalized people, forced to live on tiny plots of land, we encounter the worldview of the wealthy and powerful in the land claims process and are forced to compromise or die.”

-- from Stan McKay, "Rooted in Creation", in John bird, Loraine Land, and Murray MacAdam, eds., Nation to Nation: Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada 2002, p 29.

External links

Maehkon Ahpehtesewen: Decolonization, Resistance, Sovereignty