Lecture 5- Aboriginal
Race and ethnic relations, continued: First Nations People
A few salient facts about Aboriginal people in Canada
• Aboriginal people are spread with varying degrees of density over all of
the Canadian provinces and territories.
• They fall into three main categories:
1. First Nations,
• Within the First Nations and Inuit categories,they belong to scores of
different bands – each band having its own governance, land, language, and
traditions. These bands vary dramatically in size and wealth (or poverty).
• Additionally, about half the Aboriginal people live on tribal reserves
while the rest live elsewhere, mainly in cities.
• So, given this variation, it is nearly impossible to generalize about
Aboriginal people in Canada – hence, my hesitation.
• That said, a few generalizations will be ventured nonetheless.
A few generalizations
• First, all Aboriginal people descend from people who immigrated from Asia about
10,000 years ago
• Second, by the time that Europeans arrived in Canada in the 16th
century, Aboriginal people had staked out their own lands
• Third, the colonization of British North America – later, Canada – involvedthe
seizure or purchase of native lands, often on unfavorable terms
The Indian Act
• Fourth, the Indian Act, which formalized relations between the federal
governmentand Aboriginal people, remains contentioustoday
• The Indian Act (1867)defines who is eligible for certain legal rights and benefits
• Bill C-31(1985)ended discriminatory provisionsof the Indian Act and allowed
bands to define their own membership rules.
Some benefits to Aboriginals
• Treaty annuity payments are paid annually to registered members of bands that
have historic treaties with the Crown.
• Social programs provide income assistance, child benefits, assisted living, child
and family services, and family violence prevention.
• Yet, these fail to meet present-day needs on many reserves.
• E.g., 60 per cent on reserves aged 20-24 have not completedhigh school or
gained an equivalent diploma
• Fifth, many Aboriginal children had to leave their families and communitiesto
attend residential schools circa1870 to 1960.
• These schools, under federal authority, were intended to acculturate Aboriginal
children to European, Christian standards.
• Many Aboriginal children were abused in these schools; some died from neglect
and poor care.
• Aboriginal family life and culture was weakenedby this forced acculturation
Social pathology resulted
• Sixth, Aboriginal people – especia those on rural reserves -- are morelikely than
average to suffer from unemployment,poverty,low educational attainment, poor
housing, and preventable infectiou diseases.
• They are also more likely than oth Canadians to be victimized by crime– including • They are also more likely than oth Canadians to be victimized by crime– including
domesticviolence; morelikely to suffer from an addiction (including both alcohol
and gambling); and more likely to commitsuicide.
Legal penalties were harsh
• Especially in the Western provinces, Aboriginals are over-representedin jails and
prisons, and in sex work.
• In some regions, Aboriginal people represent well above the majority of the
prison population – 70% in Manitoba and 80% in Yukon.
The exodus from rural reserves
• Seventh, for generations Aboriginal people have been moving off the reserves
and intermarrying with non-Aboriginal people.
• Those who have movedto the major cities have assimilated economically and
socially into the mainstream society,sometimeswithout any great difficulty.
• To varying degrees, they have retained their links with their native communities
and traditions while living away from the tribal homeland.
The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS)
• A survey of Aboriginal people living in Canada’ s largest 11 cities was
commissionedby the federal governmentand managed by the Environics polling