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Language

Language is a form of communication. More specifically, language is a communication system based on human sounds. There are, however, other forms of communication systems based on touch, scent, movement, colour, gesture and even the electrical impulses that pass through computers.

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Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Before the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous peoples in Canada had their own building traditions. Dwellings and structures differed vastly from nation to nation, depending on their purpose and function. Building traditions also reflected important aspects of Indigenous peoples’ respective cultures, societies, geographies, environments and spiritual beliefs. This article provides an overview of the main types of dwellings and structures used by Indigenous peoples in the Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and Eastern Woodlands.

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Orange Shirt Day

At an event in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in May 2013, the orange shirt was presented as a symbol of Indigenous peoples’ suffering caused by Indian Residential Schools, which operated from the 1830s to the 1990s. The event led to the annual 30 September Orange Shirt Day as a means of remembrance, teaching and healing. In June 2021, the federal government declared 30 September a national statutory holiday to coincide with Orange Shirt Day.


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Longhouse

A longhouse was the basic house type of pre-contact northern Iroquoian-speaking peoples, such as the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Petun and Neutral. The longhouse sheltered a number of families related through the female line. In the 1700s, European-style single-family houses gradually replaced longhouses as primary residences. However, longhouses still function as important facilities in which some Indigenous peoples conduct ceremonies, political meetings and various community gatherings. (See also Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Tommy Douglas and Eugenics

Tommy Douglas — the father of socialized medicine in Canada and one of the country’s most beloved figures — once supported eugenic policies. In 1933, he received a Master of Arts in sociology from McMaster University for his thesis, “The Problems of the Subnormal Family.” In the thesis, Douglas recommended several eugenic policies, including the sterilization of “mental defectives and those incurably diseased.” His ideas were not unique, as two Canadian provinces (and 32 American states) passed sexual-sterilization legislation in the 1920s and 1930s. However, by the time Douglas became premier of Saskatchewan in 1944, he had abandoned his support for eugenic policies. When Douglas received two reports that recommended legalizing sexual sterilization in the province, he rejected the idea.

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Tupiq

Historically, Inuit used a simple tent, known as a tupiq (the plural form is tupiit), while travelling or hunting during the summer months. Today, the traditional tupiq is rarely used (because modern variations have largely replaced it), but some Inuit elders and communities are working to keep the tupiq, and other Inuit traditions, alive. (See also  Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Inuktitut

Inuktitut is an Indigenous language in North America spoken in the Canadian Arctic. The 2016 census reported 39,770 speakers, of which 65 per cent lived in Nunavut and 30.8 per cent in Quebec. Inuktitut is part of a larger Inuit language continuum (a series of dialects) stretching from Alaska to Greenland. Inuktitut uses a writing system called syllabics, created originally for the Cree language, which represent combinations of consonants and vowels. The language is also written in the Roman alphabet, and this is the exclusive writing system used in Labrador and parts of Western Nunavut. Inuktitut is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words tend to be longer and structurally more complex than their English or French counterparts.

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Communications in the North

Communications have played a special role in the North. Terrain, climate and distance made it difficult for northerners to communicate with each other or with southern Canada before the advent of electronic media. In traditional times, Inuit messages were passed through personal contact.

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Art

Objects of curiosity as well as of conquest, the Indigenous people of the New World were first depicted on maps by illustrators who had no direct knowledge of their subject.

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Maisie Hurley

Maisie Hurley, née Maisie Amy Campbell-Johnston, Vancouver-area political activist, Indigenous ally (see Indigenous Peoples in Canada), newspaper founder and art collector (born 27 November 1887 in Swansea, Wales; died 3 October 1964 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). Although Hurley had no formal legal training or law degree (see Legal Education), she worked on several legal cases and advocated for Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights as well as for changes to the Indian Act. In 1946, Hurley started a newspaper called The Native Voice that aimed to bring attention to important issues concerning Indigenous communities across Canada (see Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada). In 2011, Hurley’s collection of Indigenous art was displayed at the North Vancouver Museum.

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Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket

The Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket is a wool blanket with a series of stripes and points (markers on cloth) first made for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1779. The most iconic design is that which is white with green, red, yellow and indigo stripes; these colours are now used as an emblem for the HBC. While the HBC was not the first to create the point blanket, the company did popularize it among Indigenous and settler communities in Canada. Today, the design from the blanket is used on a variety of clothing, accessories and household items sold by the HBC.

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Cowichan Sweater

The Cowichan sweater is a garment created in North America with a distinctly patterned design knitted out of bulky-weighted yarn. It originated during the late 19th century among the Cowichan, a Coast Salish people in British Columbia. Historically also called the Indian sweater or Siwash sweater (a derogatory Chinook word for Indigenous people), the Cowichan people reclaimed the name after the 1950s as a means of emphasizing their claim to the garment. The popularity of the sweater by the mid-1900s thrust Cowichan sweaters into the world of international fashion, where they have been appropriated by non-Indigenous designers. Nevertheless, several knitters from various Coast Salish communities around Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia continue to create and sell authentic sweaters. In 2011, the Canadian government recognized Cowichan knitters and sweaters as nationally and historically significant.

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Celtic Music

Celtic folk song is for the most part pentatonic in origin. The 5-scale note forms the basis of the 6-note (hexatonic) and 7-note (heptatonic) scales respectively. It is this gapped scale system that distinguishes the music of the Celts from the more widely used major-minor system.

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Indian Horse

Indian Horse (2012) is the sixth novel by Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese. Set in Northern Ontario in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it follows protagonist Saul Indian Horse as he uses his extraordinary talent for ice hockey to try and escape his traumatic residential school experience. He achieves moderate success as a hockey player but is unable to escape his “Indian” identity or the trauma from his past. Indian Horse was a finalist on CBC’s Canada Reads in 2013, where it won the People’s Choice award. It was also the winner of the 2013–14 First Nation Communities Read Selection and the Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature from the Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE). In 2017, Indian Horse was adapted into an award-winning film by writer Dennis Foon and director Stephen S. Campanelli.

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Siksikáí’powahsin: Blackfoot Language

Siksikáí’powahsin (commonly referred to as the Blackfoot language) is an Algonquian language spoken by four Blackfoot nations: the Siksiká (Blackfoot), Aapátohsipikani (North Piikani), Aamsskáápipikani (South Piikani) and Kainai (Blood). While there are some dialectal differences between these groups, speakers can generally understand one another. Blackfoot is an endangered language; since the 1960s, the number of new speakers has significantly decreased. The development of language programs and resources in Canada and the United States seek to preserve the language and promote it to new speakers.

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Indigenous Oral Histories and Primary Sources

Oral histories play an integral role in Indigenous cultures. They transmit important histories, stories and teachings to new generations. Oral histories — a type of primary source — let Indigenous peoples teach about their own cultures in their own words. Other types of primary sources, such as artifacts from historical Indigenous communities, also transmit knowledge about Indigenous histories and ways of life. Academics, researchers and museum curators use such sources to highlight Indigenous perspectives.

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Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada

Before European settlement in Canada, Indigenous peoples spoke a wide variety of languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, colonial policies like the Indian Act and residential schools forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages. These restrictions have led to the ongoing endangerment of Indigenous languages in Canada. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there are only about 500 speakers or less. Indigenous communities and various educational institutions have taken measures to prevent more language loss and to preserve Indigenous languages.