Search for "Indigenous Culture"

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Powwows in Canada

Powwows are celebrations that showcase Indigenous music, dances, regalia, food and crafts. Commonly hosted by First Nations communities (either on reserve or in urban settings), powwows are often open to non-Indigenous and Métis and Inuit peoples alike. Contemporary powwows originated on the Great Plains during the late 19th century and, since the 1950s, have been growing in size, number and popularity. Powwows serve an important role in many Indigenous peoples’ lives as a forum to visit family and friends, and to celebrate their cultural heritage, while also serving as a site for cross-cultural sharing with other attendees and participants. Indeed, powwows provide the opportunity for visitors to learn about, and increase their awareness of, traditional and contemporary Indigenous life and culture.

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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.

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Salish Woolly Dog

The Salish Woolly dog was an important part of Coast Salish life throughout southern Vancouver Island, the Strait of Georgia, and Washington State, as the dogs’ hair was used to weave clothing and blankets. Due to the increased presence of European settlers and their machine-spun sheep wool, the Salish Woolly dog population declined in the 1800s until its extinction around 1900.

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Inuksuk (Inukshuk)

Inuksuk (also spelled inukshuk, plural inuksuit) is a figure made of piled stones or boulders constructed to communicate with humans throughout the Arctic.

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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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Canadian Sports History

Sports have a long history in Canada, from early Indigenous games (e.g., baggataway) to more recent sports such as snowboarding and kitesurfing. Officially, Canada has two national sports: lacrosse (summer) and hockey (winter).

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Pimachiowin Aki

Pimachiowin Aki (pronounced Pim-MATCH-cho-win Ahh-KEY) was designated as Canada’s 19th World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2018. Pimachiowin Aki means “the land that gives life” in Anishinaabemowin, a local Ojibwe language. It was recognized as an exceptional example of the cultural tradition of Ji-ganawendamang Gidakiiminaan, or “keeping the land.” The site represents Canada’s first, and only, mixed World Heritage Site. Mixed sites commemorate both the area’s natural value as well as its cultural significance. Pimachiowin Aki is also one of four Canadian World Heritage Sites that recognize Indigenous history. The other three are Writing-on-Stone/Aisinai’pi, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, and SGang Gwaay.

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Totem Pole

The totem pole (also known as a monumental pole) is a tall structure carved out of cedar wood, created by Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples to serve variously as a signboard, genealogical record and memorial. Some well-known carvers include Mungo Martin, Charles Edenshaw, Henry Hunt, Richard Hunt and Stanley Hunt.

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Potlatch

The potlatch (from the Chinook word Patshatl) is a ceremony integral to the governing structure, culture and spiritual traditions of various First Nations living on the Northwest Coast and in parts of the interior western subarctic. It primarily functions to redistribute wealth, confer status and rank upon individuals, kin groups and clans, and to establish claims to names, powers and rights to hunting and fishing territories.

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Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous (Aboriginal) Peoples are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. Inuit and First Nations history extends well before the arrival of Europeans in Canada, while Métis emerged as a distinct culture after intermarriage between European settlers and First Nations people.

Indigenous people were essential to the development of early Canada, but suffered massive population declines due to the arrival of European disease. In addition, though they were often military allies, they faced persecution at the hands of colonial governments in the form of displacement, starvation, land seizure and cultural genocide through residential schools and destructive legislation.

Indigenous people live throughout Canada and continue to strive to reinvigorate traditional culture and ways of life.