Treaty 2 – In June, we commemorate National Indigenous History Month. It’s time to recognize and celebrate the rich history, knowledge, contributions, and diversity of our first peoples across Canada.
“WE ARE STILL HERE. WE CONTRIBUTE. WE ARE DIVERSE. WE HAVE AN ANCESTORAL AND ONGOING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LAND.”
WE ARE THE FIRST PEOPLES
We include Inuit, First Nations and Métis. Together, we have often been called Native. Now we are more often known collectively as Indigenous. It has been hard to find an acceptable common name because we are, in fact, hundreds of distinct peoples. Each of these peoples has its own name, language, ancestral lands and culture. Today, we live on reserves, towns and cities across Canada. We are connected with one another by our survival as the first peoples through the last 500 years. We also maintain our connection with our lands and strive to keep our languages and cultures alive in the modern world.
Every society has its own name, developed historically and used for centuries. After Europeans arrived, some First Nations societies came to be known by names that were more familiar to English and French speakers, such as “Thompson” or “Couteau” for “Nlaka’pamux.” Other Indigenous societies came to be known by names based on linguistic misunderstandings, such as “Mi’kmaq.” Our people have remembered and used their original names among themselves. Today, more and more original names are coming into common use, and the substitute names are fading away. Examples of this here in Treaty 2 are: Keeseekoowenin, O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi and Pinaymootang.
Today, there are 53 different Aboriginal languages, belonging to 11 different language families. A language family is a group of languages that are historically related and have some words and structure in common. Kwak’wala, for example, belongs to the Wakashan language family, while Anishinaabemowin belongs to the Algonquin language family. A dialect is a regional version of a language that may have some distinctive words, expressions or sounds, but can be understood by other speakers of that language, even if they are from different regions. An example is ‘Saulteaux’ which is a dialect of Ojibwe. Algonquian is the largest Aboriginal language family in Canada, and the most widespread. Algonquian languages are spoken on the Plains, in Manitoba and Ontario, in Quebec and on the Atlantic Coast. British Columbia is the area of greatest linguistic diversity, with several language families represented. The Indigenous language most widely spoken in Canada is Cree.
At just over 1 million people, First Nations, Inuit and Métis represent slightly more than 4 per cent of Canada’s total population. As a result of high birth rates and enhanced life expectancy, the Indigenous population has increased. In 1996, there were approximately 811,400 Indigenous people in Canada. By 2016, it is projected that there will be about 1,093,400 Indigenous people. About 59 per cent of the total Aboriginal population lives in urban centers.
INNOVATIONS AND INVENTIONS BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Though the country of Canada came into existence on July 1, 1867, the land had already been inhabited for many thousands of years by the First Peoples of the Americas, and many of their ancient inventions and innovations for survival are now part of modern society and we still use them today.
In the 2014 article “10 Native Inventions and Innovations That Changed the World,” writer Vincent Shilling wrote, “Soon after the arrival of Columbus, detailed descriptions of the inventions of Indigenous peoples began to make their way back to Europe. Indigenous cultures have created thousands upon thousands of innovations that are in use today in the most modern of practices.”
In the video entitled, “Paddling on Both Sides of The Canoe,” Buffy Sainte-Marie sits in a canoe with two Indigenous youth and tells them about elements of sport invented by Indigenous Peoples of this continent. Message: To move forward on the path toward reconciliation, we need strong paddling on both sides – the learning and acceptance of the true history on one side, and a focus on uplifting Indigenous voices, history, culture, and achievements on the other. Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avY9_q4JAdE
Examples of Inventions and Innovations by Indigenous Peoples:
• Transportation & tools: canoes, snowshoes, snow goggles, kayak, red river cart
• Medicines: teas, petroleum jelly, cough syrup, pain medications
• Sports, games, art: lacrosse, soap stone carving, fiddle, inuksuk
• Foods: corn, wild rice, sunflowers
• Clothing: Capote, moccasins, mukluks/kamik, métis sash
• Other items: Tipi, chewing gum, mouthwash, baby bottles, bunk beds
Submitted by Renée McGurry, Earth Lodge
My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back. (Louis Riel, July 4, 1885)