Aboriginal Groups in Canada
There is 6 great groups of Aboriginals in Canada. The groups are divided depending on their region and similar cultures. Each group thinks of themselves as distinct people. They knew how to co-exist with nature and flourished because of this. They have a sense of family, men and woman where both equal and they depended on each other. All of these groups have unique housing, food, art, transportation, cultures and systems of government. These groups are the Arctic, Sub Arctic, Woodlands, Plains, Plateau and Coastal.
The people of the Arctic have inhabited the Canadian Arctic area of more than 20,000 years and thought to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge to arrive into Canada. The Arctic environment where they live is featured by long winters in total darkness and the summer contained long days and moderate temperatures compared to the winter. There is no trees in sight except for some plants and berries here and there. Surrounding them are Alpine glaciers and lakes. Living in the Arctic are the Inuit people who are ancestors of the Thule. They have 8 separate tribes in total and within the tribes , they have an Eskimo Aleut language group, which contains 6 dialects. The Inuit people live in bands which consist of 500-1000 people, though within these band they live in smaller families consisting of 2-5 members. The leader of the household is the most active member. They are very family oriented and believe that family is the main unit. Members are married at a young age and children are highly cherished. Survival depends on the family unit, thus the strict jobs. Inuits are semi-nomadic and depended on hunting to survive. Men go out and do the hunting, while women carry out the house hold jobs. They hunted sea mammals like seals and caribou in the summer. The Inuit are also quite advanced in technology with their animals skins, horns and other resources creating amazing masterpieces like harpoons and kayaks. Although, there is no time for art because the need to survive and scarce resources , there have special ceremonies and soap stone carvings that they are able to do. The Inuit have Shamans who are in charge of the spiritual world because dreams and the spiritual world are an important part of this culture. Code of conducts were taught to every child. They are taught that being greedy is not good, also being selfish and stealing was prohibited. Education was a life long thing. Lessons, stories and history are passed down orally from generation to generation. Most Inuit today are Christians.
The area of the Subarctic covers 5 million square km and 3 quarters of this land resides in the Canadian shield. The area is covered with boreal and coniferous forests with lakes too. The weather is very extreme with -40°c in the winter and 30°c in the summer. Dene, Carrier, Cree, and Inland Thlingit bands inhabit the Subarctic. There is 2 language groups, the Algonquin and the Athapaskan. In each band there is 35-50 people. There is no formal chief, instead power is based on personal status. Everyone has power including both men and woman. They have a high personal value, for instance if you disagreed with your band leader, you have the freedom to join another one. Both men and woman did the hunting, fishing and shared jobs. Food included caribou, moose, fish, moss etc. The Subarctic people do not have much material possessions because they move around frequently within the area. They traveled light, and are able to construct new tools as required and discard them when moving on. They live in tipis which are easy to take apart. Sub Arctic people also believes in myths focusing around animals taking on human forms.
The Woodlands area consists of 2 language groups, the Iroquoian and Algonquin. The Iroquoian group includes members of the 6 Nations Confederacy: Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Huron. The Iroquoians are skilled at farming and they use the 3 sisters method which is planting corn, squash and beans. They also fish, hunt, and gather domestic crops. Compared to most aboriginal groups, they have permanent settlements and live in longhouses in villages. Longhouses consist of a number of related families. The Iroquoian were matrilineal and once married, the husband of the family will move in to live with his wife. Women stay home while men did hunting.They are governed by war chiefs, civil chiefs and live in a shamanistic society. The Algonquin on the other hand consisted of groups including the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Algonquin, Abenaki, Maliseet and Miqmac. They rely mostly on hunting, fishing and trading. These hunters were semi-nomadic who followed their food. Sometimes they would have wild rice, maple or birch syrup. The Algonquin are well know for their water travel and birch bark canoes. Shamans are very important to their culture and they believe in evil spirits like the Wendigo.
There is a smaller population of Plains people in the Canada compared to the United States. The Plains people of Canada live in an area from the Rocky Mountains to southern Manitoba. Weather is extreme with hot summers and cold winters. The land is flat and roam of buffalo and bison. The Plains have 6 language groups that live there: the Algonquin, Athapaskan, Sioux, Ojibwa, Cree and Blackfoot. The Plains Indian are nomadic people and followed their main staple, the buffalo wherever it went. They have an unique way of hunting buffalo by driving them down a cliff, men and woman both participated in this event. This hunting happens in the summer. Women also have to gather berries and roots, prepare and preserve food. In the winter they have a lot of time for art and music, thus were a very decorative group of people. Because they were nomadic people, they lived in tipis. They lived in bands and each band would have a headman. The headman are not considered as the leader because decisions were made unanimously. Discipline is crucial and public shame is feared. The Plains people believe in a great god, and that everyone could connect with him because everything on Earth has a spirit. Many ceremonies are held like the sun dance and ghost dance. The buffalo is a key aspect of their daily life. When the Europeans came to Canada, they hunted the buffalo and soon the buffalo became nearly extinct and the Plains people were greatly effected.
These people live in the small plateau region in British Columbia and Alberta, hence the name Plateau people. The 2 main language groups are the Athapaskan and the Interior Salish. The area that they live is mountainous, and dry with rivers and forests. The area provided food like fish, moose, deer, berries wild potatoes etc. They live in small groups and are semi-nomadic . In the summer, they will move around and live in tipis. In the winter, they will set up a permanent underground housing, a pit house. The Plateau people have a strict social structure in which men hunted and did the decision making, where the woman did the cooking and raising children. There were chefs ,but they were not the main decision makers. Art included cliff paintings and weaving. Their society believed in sharing and animal spirits. Of course the shamans played an important part. The Plateau people performed traditional dances like the winter dance and sun dance.
The people of the Northwest coast in British Columbia live in cold and wet climates with moderate temperatures, which they inhabited for over ten thousand years. There is numerous of bands in the coast, such as the Haida, Tlingit and Salish. The most vast languages and cultures reside in this area. An essential part to their lives are the cedar. They make everything from cedar, clothes, art, utensils to food. Their longhouses are also made of cedar too. The main food supply is seafood, usually salmon. There is plenty of natural of resources so they rarely need to hunt. For transportation they would carve canoes out of large cedar trees to travel on water. Members lived in large groups. Bands were divided into clans like the frog clan, orca clan etc. Wealthy clans have the most power. Clans are run matrilineally. Ranks are given depending on how close they are to the chief. There are marriages between clans and are controlled by a dowry system where the male family pays the female family for marriage. When they have their first child, the female family pays back the same amount, which means they have the right to split up. Like other Aboriginal groups, the Coastal people relied on oral traditions and told many stories. They also believe in the supernatural world and had shamans.
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