Before contact with Europeans, Indigenous peoples educated their youth through traditional means — demonstration, group socialization, participation in cultural and spiritual rituals, skill development and oral teachings. The introduction of European classroom-style education as part of a larger goal of assimilation disrupted traditional methods and resulted in cultural trauma and dislocation. Reformers of Indigenous education policies are attempting to reintegrate traditional teachings and provide more cultural and language-based support to enhance and improve the outcomes of Indigenous children in the education system.
The Aboriginal population is the most rural in Canada. One-half of a million Aboriginal people are committed to the land by heritage, by rights in a rural land base, and by a broad range of bureaucratic mandates provided by the federal government. These conditions are supported by the Constitution Act, 1982, a legal guarantee that is unique in the world for an Aboriginal population with a predominantly hunting heritage.
Health and Disease The health of Indigenous people suffered drastic changes after the arrival of Europeans from the 16th to the 19th century. The introduction of "new" diseases, particularly infections such as smallpox, measles, and influenza, resulted in epidemics, famines, and social disruptions.
Over 1.8 million people reported having an Aboriginal ancestry, or ancestors with an Indigenous identity in Canada in 2011. More than 1.4 million people (over 4 per cent of the total population in Canada) identified themselves as an Aboriginal/Indigenous person.
The social conditions of Indigenous peoples in Canada vary greatly according to place of residence, income level, family and cultural factors and classification (i.e., First Nations, Métis and Inuit). Areas of particular social concern include housing, employment, education, health, justice, and family and cultural growth.
Indigenous peoples in Canada developed rich building traditions thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Each of the six broad cultural regions of Indigenous peoples in Canada, defined by common climatic, geographical and ecological characteristics — the Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and Eastern Woodlands — gave rise to distinctive building forms which reflected these conditions, as well as the available building materials, means of livelihood, and social and spiritual values of the resident peoples.
In Canada, the term Indigenous peoples (or Aboriginal peoples) refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. These are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. In 2011, more than 1.4 million people in Canada identified as Indigenous. Though severely threatened — and in certain cases extinguished — by colonial forces, Indigenous culture, language and social systems have shaped the development of Canada, and continue to grow and thrive despite extreme adversity.1
It is difficult to make generalizations about definitions of Indigenous rights because of the diversity among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada. Broadly speaking, however, Indigenous rights are inherent, collective rights that flow from the original occupation of the land that is now Canada, and from social orders created before the arrival of Europeans to North America. For many, the concept of Indigenous rights can be summed up as the right to independence through self-determination regarding governance, land, resources and culture.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was officially launched in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Intended to be a process that would guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, the TRC was also meant to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.
The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.
Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966 near Redditt, ON). Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy from Ontario, ran away from his residential school near Kenora at age 12, and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. His death in 1966 sparked national attention and the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.
The 1869–70 uprising in the Red River Colony (also known as the Red River Resistance) was sparked by the transfer of the vast territory of Rupert's Land to the new nation of Canada. The colony of farmers and hunters, many of them Métis, occupied a corner of Rupert's Land and feared for their culture and land rights under Canadian control.2
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (formerly Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) is a federal department responsible for the development of policies pertaining to First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Northern communities. As of 28 August 2017, it consists of two portfolios: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and Indigenous Services. As the primary link between the federal government and Indigenous peoples in Canada, the department’s main focus is Indigenous self-government, economic development, improved quality of life, efficient management of Indigenous land, resources and money, and northern development.
To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the Canadian colony of New France — which held the most slaves and for the longest duration in Canada — were Indigenous. These people were products of the slave trade that developed in the southernmost of Britain’s thirteen colonies during the late 1600s. It was there that settlers turned an Indigenous practice of slavery into a devastating cycle of events that tore apart Indigenous nations and affected all of the European colonies in North America.
National Aboriginal Day, 21 June, is an official day of celebration to recognize and honour the achievements, history and rich cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. This day has been celebrated as a statutory territorial holiday in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and in the Yukon since 2017.