Canada travel guide

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JUNE 24

Canada Travel Guide

Canada Aboriginal Peoples



Nearly a million Canadians can claim at least partial aboriginal ancestry. Aboriginal populations continue to increase, and interest in their cultural heritage, by aborigines and nonaborigines alike, continues to grow. However, the term "aborigine" does not indicate a common or shared culture, only descent from groups of people who arrived on the continent long before Europeans. Canada's constitution specifies three categories of "aboriginal peoples": Indian, Inuit and Métis.

The term "Indian" is now recognized as a misnomer, but other attempts to be more specific, such as "Amerindians" or "Native Canadians", have been no more successful and you're likely to hear several different terms on your travels. The terms "First Nations" and "aboriginals" are in vogue but again there is the possibility of more change. Treated as wards of the federal government since the birth of Canada, the Indians were put in a different legal category from all other Canadians by the Indian Acts in the nineteenth century. Modern legal distinctions divide this group further into those who are recognized as "Indian" by the federal government - a status bestowed on more than 800,000 Canadians - and those who are denied this recognition, the so-called "non-status Indians". Amongst status Indians there are 633 aboriginal bands (the term "tribe" has also become outmoded) across Canada. Some communities number fewer than 100 inhabitants and others more than 5000. Status enables rights to fishing, hunting and living on a reservation, while nonstatus denies these rights but allows a person to vote, buy property and alcohol. Status can be lost and gained through marriage, an act of parliament or even a band taking a vote on the matter.

Because of the distances separating them, each nation and even each community has its own characteristics. Their personality and culture are fashioned by history, the environment and by their surrounding neighbours. A large part of the aboriginal people live in relatively close contact with nonaboriginal people and interact on a daily basis with cultures that have a determining influence on their way of life.




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