Aboriginal Canadians and European Settlers

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Aboriginal Canadians and European settlers

In the history of contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, there has been an imbalance in acculturative influences. Generally, Aboriginal peoples have been changed substantially, with serious erosion of their cultures and identities. However, this dominance by Euro Canadian peoples has also been met by resistance by Aboriginal peoples. Policy and programme changes to alter the relationship between these two sets of people are suggested, including a reduction in pressures toward assimilation and segregation which have historically resulted in the marginalization of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. When individuals experience intercultural contact, the issue of who they are comes to the fore. Prior to major contact, this question is hardly an issue; people routinely and naturally think of themselves as part of their cultural community, and usually value this attachment in positive terms. Of course, other life transitions (such as adolescence) can lead people to wonder, and even doubt, which they are. But it is only during intercultural contact that their cultural identity may become a matter of concern. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples established a research project on Aboriginal cultural identity, and commissioned reports on the subject. This paper is based on one of those reports, and draws upon concepts, data and analyses that were carried out as a consultant to that project The main line of argument in this paper is that intercultural contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada (both historically, and at the present time), has initiated a process of acculturation (at both the cultural and psychological levels), during which Aboriginal peoples have experienced cultural disruption, leading to reducedwell-being and to identity confusion and loss. It is further argued that sincethis process has resulted from interactions between Aboriginal and...
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