Canadian First Nations An Introduction to the Indigenous People of Canada Canadian Culture Canada is a pluralistic society. This means that our society is made up of many groups of people, each with its own unique identities, ideas, perspectives, and culture. The resulting society has a sense of respect for all cultures. Focus on Culture Culture is a way of life or a way of being that is shared by a group of people. Culture includes knowledge, experience, and values that a group shares and shape the way its members see the world. Governments, relationships, languages, and beliefs are all aspects of a groups’ cultural identity. Culture of the First Nations The First Nations peoples have lived in all parts of the land that we now call Canada. They lived in the frozen lands of the artic, the mountains of the west, the prairie grasslands, eastern woodlands, and on the islands from the north to the south. Each First Nation developed a unique culture suited to its surroundings in the natural world. Their cultures became as diverse as the Canadian landscape. When studying the First Nation peoples we tend to lump these diverse groups together for ease of use; and many groups do have similar worldviews based on shared past experiences. However, remember that each group has distinct histories, traditions, language, and beliefs. What’s in a Name? Why do we call them First Nations? Long story shortEuropeans tended to be ethnocentric This means that they judged other cultures and ideas according to their values and standards. Generally, they did not respect perspectives that differed from their own. For example, when Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of the Americas, he was actually looking for a trade route to India. When he saw the Natives, he assumed he land in India and they were therefore, Indians. Instead of asking them what they called themselves, even after he realized his mistake, the name Indian stuck, along with many other incorrect names for Native tribes. Today we realize our mistake and, along with the input of the First Nation peoples, have officially replaced the European names with the original names of the First Nations. Worldviews Some Fist Nation cultures share core values relating to their relationships with the Creator, the natural world, other people, and themselves. These beliefs were passed from generation to generation through traditional teachings. These teachings helped explain the relationships among plants, animals, land, people, and the spirit world. The Passing on of Traditions The elders of the First Nation peoples were held in high regard. They were the keepers of knowledge, and passed on their knowledge, histories and traditions to the youth through oral storytelling. The information was memorized and passed on orally from one generation to the next. It did not need to be written down. In this way, the First Nations developed a rich oral culture. Our Study For this unit we will focus on three First Nation peoples: The Mi’kkmaq, Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinabe. We will explore their worldviews and traditional ways of life. Mi’kmaq The Mi’kmaq lived, and continue to live in Eastern Canada They were hunters, fishers, and gathers relying on small game animals and cod. They had strong spiritual beliefs centered on nature and the interconnectedness of all creatures of the Creator. Ass all were believed to be equal, they treated all of nature with respect. Their political structure was a hierarchy. They had members of a Grand Council, elected from District Chiefs (there were 7 districts), the remaining chiefs made up the council of elders. Members of districts lived in family clans, with a local leader called Sagamaw. They solved local disputes. All members of council had to be good hunters and/or fishers. All decisions were made with the consensus of the council members with input from interested ‘citizens’. Men held the highest positions in the councils. They were also responsible for hunting and fishing in order to provide for the clan. Women held important roles in their communities. They were in charge in distributing the food and goods among the clan. They gathered and prepared food, raised the children and took care of the home. Women were also allowed and encouraged to voice concerns to council. There were many female elders who gave advice and guidance to council and clans. Mi’kmaq – Political Structure Grand Council Grand Council Leader Seven District Chiefs (1 from each district) Council of Elders Local Chiefs Villages of Bands Haudenosaunee The Haudenosaunee are a group that includes six different First Nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. They lived North to South of the St. Laurence River. They shared a similar language (Algonquin) and similar core values. However each group has a distinct culture The Haudenosaunee depended on hunting, fishing and gathering. They are accredited as being Canada’s first farming peoples. Their main crops, the “Three Sisters” were corn, beans, and squash. They believed the crops came from the Spirit World. The Haudenosaunee had similar beliefs surrounding the importance of Nature and the interconnectedness of human, animal, and spirit world. The Haudenosaunee government system relied on alliances, or agreements between the different tribes to woek together. According to oral history, a peacemaker arrived in the land of the Haudenosaunee who were at the time, at war with each other. The peacemaker created the Law of Peace; a set of laws that explain how the government would work and how people should behave. This is not unlike how the constitution works within the Canadian and US government. In the Haudenosaunee community, men were expected to hunt and fish. They also were the leaders. However, it was a matrilineal societyheaded by women. Families were organized in Longhouses, similar to Mi’kmaq clans. Women were the head of longhouses and called Clan Mother. Male leaders were elected by the women. They tended the crops, raised the children, and were responsible for distributing food and other goods. The first to receive resources were children, then Elders, women, then finally the men. Women were well respected for their ability to create life. They were the decision makers and controlled many aspects of Haudenosaunee daily life including: Location of villages What crops to plant and where Whether men should go to war or make peace Taught the children Preformed ceremonies and rituals Anishinabe The Anishinabe lived The Anishinabe lived according to seven in the wooded main principles: country of Northern Ontario, central Wisdom Ontario, and Sothern Love Manitoba. Later they Respect moved Westward Bravery onto the Plains Honesty where they live Humility today. Truth The Anishinabe were hunters and gathers. However, they had an additional food source that set them apart from other First nations: wild rice. They focused on the seasons and created a life cycle based on when to grow, when to harvest, when to hunt and when to fish. Nature dictated their lives, therefore they too showed respect to Mother Nature. Like the Mi’kmaq and the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinabe created a clan system to resolve local issues and organize education, medicine, food and goods, etc. Each clan was named after an animal, and each clan had duties to carry out for the good of the entire nation. Each clan had a leader who was chosen based on their courage, skills, and character. The clans worked together to create a balanced government. Anishinabe – The governing system Bird – Spiritual leaders; Responsible for well-being and spiritual development of the community. Deer – Poets, pacificists; Responsible for creating And maintaining shelter Anishinabe Clan System Marten – Hunters, food gathers, and warriors Bear – Strong and steady; responsible for patrolling and policing the community Loon and Crane – Leadership Clans; responsible for providing governance Fish – Teachers and scholars; Responsible for teaching young people and solving disputes The Anishinabe believed in equality and balance. Men and Women were equal partners and preformed specific roles. Men hunted, fished, and held leadership roles in the clan system. Women raised children and looked after the home. They also did some hunting. They were primarily responsible for planting and harvesting. They too divided the food and other goods among the clans. Economies of First Nations An important part of every culture is the economy. This is the way people meet their basic needs. The First Nations were based on food supply. Growing, gathering, hunting, and fishing. They needed to gain as much in the summer and preserve as much in the winter. The people had to have an excellent knowledge of the land, climate, and cycles of nature in order for this economy to work. Trading Networks The First Nations traded goods with one another long before European traders arrived. For example, the Haudenosaunee traded corn and other crops in return for copper from the Anishinabe, and seashells from the Mi’kmaq. All across North America, First Nations traded with eachother for goods they did not have. When the Europeans arrived, they joined their trading network.