GG354 – Lesson notes
Lesson 5 - Social History and Cultural Background
Arrival Routes and Timing
- Ice-Free Corridor: Theory that explains the path by which the first Americans took to
reach the mid-latitudes of North America between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice
sheets. Excavation revealed finely crafted thin, leaf-shaped stone projectile points
imbedded in the bones of large bison.
- Coastal Migration Route:
Clovis Theory: some 12,000 years ago, Old World hunters from Alaska and Yukon found an ice-
free corridor through the vast ice sheet to the unglaciated areas of the New World. Armed with
spears that had a distinctive fluted projectile point, these Paleo-Indians quickly spread across
North and South America. Archaeological evidence clearly demonstrates that Paleo-Indians
were hunting the woolly mammoth and other big-game animals in the Great Plains and the
Southwest of what is today the United States as early as 11,000 years ago. At the same time,
primitive hunters had reached the southern tip of South America. The empirical support for the
Clovis theory is based on archaeological finds of flaked-stone projectile points. These distinctive
spear points were first unearthed in 1932 at a New Mexico mammoth kill site near Clovis, New
Mexico. Since then, similar finds dated to the same early period have been made in other parts
of North America. However, more recent arch findings, especially the Monte Verde site in Chile,
which apparently dates to 12, 500 years ago, suggest that Old World hunters reached South
America well before the Clovis people.
Time Location Social System Resource Reasons for
Period Dependence Change
Paleo- 11,000 – Southwest Woolly
Indians 6000 US to ice-free mammoth,
Pre- years ago corridor sea-based
Dorset between the hunting
Dorset - 5000 – Western Maritime Displaced
Tuuniit 1000 Arctic, hunting of sea by Thule
years ago Nunavut, & mammals due to
coasts of major
Greenland & climatic
Thule 1000 Northern -constructed winter camp Maritime Arctic
years ago coast of dwellings from blocks of hunting of sea regions
and ice, providing shelter for
Alaska, one, two, or perhaps threeammals – were eastwards extended families. A central whaling (large abandoned
across fire and animal hides insulatbowhead and
the dwelling against the harsh
Canadian cold winter. Summer coastal whale) whaling
Arctic and camp dwellings were was given
constructed from whalebone
Greenland and wood, which was covered up
with whale baleen and sod. As
the hunting technology
developed, the amount of
food gathered increased. The
seasonal occupation sites
became larger and more
seasonal camps utilised sleds
constructed from animal
bones and hides.
Domesticated dogs were
harnessed to the sled and
pulled up to sixty-six kilograms
Three main native groups occupying northern lands at the time of European contact:
- Inuit or Thule (Arctic Canada)
- Athapaskan (Northern plains/ Yukon territory)
- Algonquin (W,S, E of lower Hudson Bay) Lesson 6 – Population Patterns
Main geographical and environmental limitations that will control population size in the North:
1. A short growing season prohibits commercial agriculture
2. The frozen Arctic Ocean cannot serve as a main transportation artery
3. The cold environment makes the cost of construction and the operation of businesses
much high in the North, but especially in the Arctic, than in more temperate areas of
4. The great distance to markets means that its export-oriented resource industry has very
high transport costs. Similarly, the cost of importing building materials, food-stuffs, and
diesel fuel for community power and heating is extremely expensive and greatly
increases cost of living
Four phases in population change:
- Phase 1 (1871-1941): in 1871, population of the North was approx. 60,000. Over the
next 20 years, the settlement of the southern fringe of the Subarctic by non-Aboriginal
Canadians plus the slow but steady increase in the Aboriginal population accounted for
population growth. By 1901 the North’s population had reached 100,000, and by 1931 it
had more than doubled to 250,000.
- Phase 2 (1941-1981): during this period the population in Canada’s North jumped from
350,000 to nearly 1.5 million. Four main factors accounting for the enormous increase
were: 1) a resource boom that began in the late 1940s and triggered a massive in-
migration of southern Canadians and the creation of new resource towns, 2) a high rate
of natural increase among the Aboriginal population that saw it more than triple, 3) a
policy change in Ottawa that began in 1957 with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s
‘Northern Vision’ promoting development in the North, and 4) increased public
spending by both the provinces and Ottawa that led to a northern bureaucracy and
facilitated the relocation of government officials to the North through a series of
- Phase 3 (1981-2006): the North’s population remained relatively stable at just under 1.5
million. Since the 1980s, annual out-migration has sometimes exceeded in-migration. In
1981 the North had a population of 1.47 million. 25 years later, that figure was
unchanged. The reasons for this demographic reversal from the fast-growth phase prior
to the 1980s are complex, but they are related to a net out-migration and a high rate of
natural increase of Aboriginal peoples.
- Phase 4 (2006-2011): could continue into near future with changes in two demographic
factors – a falling rate of natural increase among Aboriginal population and a decrease
in net migration – could lead to a slow but steady downward slide in the North’s
population size. The collapse of the forest industry was and remains a primary economic
reason for the population decline in the Provincial North (as well as failure of new
resource projects and slowdown of older mining operations). There are also extremely limited economic opportunities in Native communities and very high unemployment
rates may cause greater numbers of younger Aboriginal adults to relocate to southern
cities. This potential decline represents a variation of the ‘push-pull hypothesis”, in this
case a struggle between culture (pull to stay in the north) and economy (push to find
employment in southern Canada).
Arctic and subarctic
- Arctic has a population of approx. 50,000, 3% of North’s total population. Home for the
Inuit and their Thule ancestors for over a thousand years, provided a most challenging
environment for a hunting economy and, its carrying capacity under that economic
system could only support a small number of people (half the size of the current
population). Defined by 4 Inuit land claim regions – Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador),
Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, and Inuvialuit settlement area in the western
arctic – plus fewer than 10,000 non-Inuit, the Arctic is the most sparsely populated
natural region in Canada.
- Subarctic has over 1.4 million people, 97% of northern population. The vast majority of
people residing in the Subarctic are Canadians who relocated from southern Canada
largely because of economic opportunities related to the resource economy and the
public service sector.
- Territorial North (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut): 101, 310 people or 6.9% of the North’s
population lived in the three territories
- Provincial North: the northern areas of eastern Canada (Ontario and Quebec) account
for bulk (65.2%) of population. These same areas suffered a decline of 21,000 people
from 2001 to 2006. The population of the provincial north was 1, 368, 204 in 2006.
- Near North: most southerly area of the Canadian North, where approx. 1 million people
are located mostly in cities and towns. Thunder Bay is an important gateway city for
- Middle North: population of 400,000, most of the towns are involved in resource
industries; Fort McMurray fastest growing city in the middle north.
- Far North: lies in the arctic biome, containing approx 50,000 inhabitants. Most are Inuit.
Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, largest centre in the far north with population of 6,184 in
- Extreme North: limited to the northernmost islands of the arctic archipelago, with less
than 300 people living here. Resolute is the largest centre, with a population of 226 in
2006. Population growth:
The Territorial North, especially Northern Alberta, where oil sands development projects
continue to attract workers from across Canada. Nunavut is experiencing a rapidly expanding
population fuelled by its high fertility rates, which is more than double its national average.
From 1996 to 2006, the population increased by just over 19%.
Political North, mainly Northern Ontario and Quebec’s forest industry, caused massive out-
migration due to the drop in demand for softwood lumber and pulp from the US.
This pattern emerges due to the resource availability and demand in particular regions of the
Regional Service Centres:
Range from small service centres to capital cities
Are the source of certain goods and services for those living in that area
Central place theory: seeks to explain the relative size and geographic spacing of urban
centres as a function of shopping behaviour
o Central argument: basic or lower goods and services are found in all urban
centres while specialized or higher order ones are found only in larger urban
Single industry towns – products of the resource economy
Created during the resource boom during 50s to 80s
Vulnerable to the alternating circumstances of global demand for their natural
Product of post colonial era in Canada
Fewer than 1000 inhabitants – most are situated in remote locations, access to some
only by air or water transportation
Cost of living extremely high since food and other goods are imported from southern
Represent small piece of their traditional homeland Lesson 7
Five barriers identified as main issues in improving education enrolment
- Historical Barriers
o Prior to late 1960s, because of government policies, the schooling of Aboriginals
was oriented toward assimilation into mainstream European-Canadian society
The residential school system – formed negative experiences and distrust
of Aboriginal students in schools forbidding them of their language and
Assimilative nature of postsecondary education – Aboriginal people who
attained higher education to relinquish their Indian status, a process
called enfranchisement. Since WW11, when enfranchisement was no
longer a consequence of attending university, the intensity of the
assimilative forces of public and higher education tended to alienate
educated Aboriginals from their families, communities, and origins.
- Social Barriers
o Poverty of aboriginal communities – lack of academic preparation
o Reserve and remote schools typically do not offer academic preparation –
required in successful transition to postsecondary studies
o Discrimination – university represents impersonal, intimidating and hostile
environment, core values are not recognized – aboriginals expected to leave
cultural assimilations upon entrance to their new reality, which is often
substantially different from their own
- Cultural Barriers
o very little of what most Aboriginal students bring in the way of cultural
knowledge, traditions, and core values is recognized or respected in the
postsecondary system. The reality of the “university world” is substantially
different than the Aboriginal personal and community reality.
o Universities typically have long-established practices, norms, and policies seen as
serving the values and cultural norms of the dominant non-Aboriginal society.
- Family-related Barriers
o Family responsibilities are often barriers to retention for the Aboriginal
More likely to be married, a couple, older than general population and
Day care requirements
- Individual/Personal Barriers
o sense of powerlessness, poor self-concept, apathy, poor mental health, poor
physical health, anger, and frustration. o These can in turn lead to alcohol and substance abuse, petty thievery, physical
and sexual abuse, and for some to incarceration and a further cycle of despair.
o These manifestations impact on many Aboriginal students.
o Often there isn’t adequate family support or institutional support in their home
communities to assist them in the development of a healthy mind and body.
Strengths, Weaknesses and Recommendations of Northern Aboriginal Communities
Aboriginal communities have a profound social, cultural and spiritual attachment to the
Aboriginal people see their traditional culture, languages and way of life as unique and
The Northwest Territories government is committed to working in partnership with
Aboriginal groups, industry and other governments and business.
The cultural identity of Aboriginal people is closely connected to the land.
Capacity building is the most important challenge facing northern communities.
There is inadequate funding for various social problems.
Past approaches to community development have encouraged dependency and
Addictions, health problems and rotational work are factors that may conspire to
undermine community viability.
There is a lack of recognition and respect for Aboriginal northerners, their culture and
Education and Employment
There is a lack of jobs in the small communities.
There is a glaring mismatch between the skills and education levels of Northerners and
the demands of the labour market.
Unemployment is high, particularly among young people, and income levels are
NWT's current labour supply needs improvements in their education levels in order to
take full advantage of the employment opportunities that may come available in the
The value of formal education and training remains under-appreciated in many
Aboriginal communities and among some Aboriginal leaders. A large proportion of the adult Aboriginal population lacks the basic literacy and
education to compete effective