There are numerous details included in the essay that indicate that the author is Aboriginal. For example, in the leading sentence of the essay, he states that he was “born on a trapline” and learned to speak Cree as his first language. This clearly shows right from the start that he was raised in an Aboriginal environment. The fact that he lived on a trapline also demonstrates the hunter-gatherer way of life that many Aboriginals lead in order to utilize the their environment to provide many of their necessities while retaining their connection with nature. In the second paragraph, the author mentions that he enjoys travelling to Northern Ontario to hunt with his father. This anecdote is important because he describes in detail how they hunt, namely highlighting the fact that whilst most Canadians will simply buy food at a supermarket without a second thought, it is customary for Aboriginals hunting to say a prayer for the animals’ spirits to show appreciation and gratitude for their sacrifice. This demonstrates the Aboriginal perspective because Aboriginals recognize that they are very dependent on other parts of creation, and therefore show respect and appreciation through activities such as praying, giving thanks and using human pronouns when speaking about animals. Another point in the essay where the author is shown to be of Aboriginal descent is when he expresses frustration about the number of homeless people (Aboriginal or otherwise) that need help, comparing it to his childhood memory of his mother telling him that “In the old days, no one went hungry as long as there was food, and everyone had a place to sleep”. This demonstrates the Aboriginal mentality of communalism (vs. individualism) that dictates that everyone in the group is important and responsible for following the laws of nature, as they believe that individuals within a community are all interconnected, and that the harmony of a group helped keep the universe in balance. Near the end of the essay, the author states that he will teach his children the ways of the new world, as well as the stories of the past. For many Aboriginals, it is important to maintain links to the past while adapting to the ever-changing world around them. Throughout the essay, the author demonstrates the holistic perspective of the world typical of traditional Aboriginal values. This is evident when the author states that he and his wife will raise their children to know “what is important in life”. He also comments that city people are always in a hurry, never stopping to fully appreciate the majesty of nature as he himself does at night with his telescope.
Lesson 7: Sources of Aboriginal History
a.) An elder tells a story about hunting caribou with his grandfather
This example can help us learn about Aboriginal culture because it is a source of oral history that shows the importance of hunting and storytelling in traditional Aboriginal lifestyles. Stories about hunting held significance because it is a method of sharing essential information about how to hunt for survival. Another important aspect of the storytelling process was teaching children how to listen and respect their elders. Stories were meant to stimulate their imaginations and powers of vision and hearing. Storytellers amongst Aboriginal communities were very respected, as it was their responsibility to pass on traditions and history with accuracy to ensure the integrity of the information given to the next generation.
b.) A totem pole shows an eagle clutching a salmon in its jaws
Historians and archeologists trying to interpret and understand the story of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada often utilize totem poles. Totem poles can act as a coat of arms for different clans and represent a connection and unity among the members of a group. Alternately, totem poles can also be memorial monuments, which can help us learn about the ancestry and history of a particular group of people. Since totem poles originally came from the Northwest cost of Canada, they are especially helpful when learning about Aboriginals occupying that specific region. Animals depicted on totem poles often hold special meanings that can be analyzed to learn more about specific events or people.
Lesson 8: Communal Responsibilities
Women play an important role in traditional Aboriginal communities. They perform many physical tasks crucial to the survival of the group. These include preparing food, raising children, making clothing, tanning animal hides, collecting firewood, and more. They were also respected as spiritual healers and in the matrilineal Iroquois Confederacy, women considered to be wise chose the chiefs among the men. Today, Aboriginal women face many challenges because of political and social prejudices created by ethnocentric legislation, indoctrinated racism and sexism. It is harder for Aboriginal women to find work and seek higher education, often having to rely on social assistance from the government, which only furthers the paternalistic aims of the Indian Act by making it so that a large portion of the Aboriginal community depends on the government for everyday needs. Aboriginal women were recognized as essential to the traditional community and continue to overcome obstacles to improve their lives and achieve great success.
In traditional Aboriginal communities, elders were the oldest and most respected men in their society. One of their most important responsibilities was to communicate traditional world view and values of the Aboriginal people through storytelling. These stories taught key life lessons such as respect and cooperation. Elders also acted as councilors to the group, helping everyone get along with each other and sharing knowledge about child rearing. Today, many of the younger generation do not understand the ancient language as well as their ancestors, making it more challenging for the elders to pass on and share traditions than it was in the past. Elders play an extremely important role in the Aboriginal community because of their part in preserving Aboriginal traditions and culture.
Lesson 9: Traditional Ceremonies and Rituals
Link to the natural world
(land, animals, plants)
Link to the spirit world/ancestors
Sharing the abundance of Mother Earth (gifts of food) and honouring the animals Recognizing ancestors by telling about the family history
2. Wendat Feast of the Dead
Covering bones of the deceased with decorative beaver pelts
Re-burying of deceased in shared grave for collective mourning 3. The Sun Dance
Purpose of ceremony was to renew relationships with all of Creation and show thankfulness for the living earth (plants and animals that helped them survive) Spiritual ceremony to renew themselves with offerings and prayer to the Great Spirit
Before departing on a vision quest, a young person could participate in an elder-led purification ritual in a sweat lodge. Afterwards, they could seek help from an elder after returning from a vision quest to help interpret their visions
Lesson 10: Current Practices and Challenges
The Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC) of the Grand River Territory seeks to reverse the negative effects of the residential schools of the past. The WCC museum celebrates Aboriginal culture, which serves to increase Aboriginal education and exposure to amongst the new generation of Aboriginals to heal the wounds caused by the attempted destruction of culture done by residential schools. The organization also supports modern Aboriginal artists who combine traditional values with current thoughts and mentalities.
The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) is a long-standing place of healing for many Aboriginals. Aboriginals have relatively higher rates of incarceration and unemployment because of numerous reasons. This organization offers help to the homeless and crime prevention programs to address these concerns. Another way this organization facilitates healing is through their opportunities for young Aboriginals to participate in traditional ceremonies such as sweat lodge rituals and vision quests, which help many city-dwelling individuals get back in touch with their cultural roots.
Powwows are a good example of a traditional ceremony that continues today, albeit with changes due to modern influences. This ceremony promotes healing because in the past, the Canadian government outlawed ceremonies such as the Powwow for a period of about 50 years. Despite this obstacle, ceremonies continued to happen in secret. This shows how important these ceremonies were to the Aboriginal people and demonstrates the determination of the People to hold on to their culture and traditions. Now that they are free to celebrate their heritage, Powwows have become hugely popular events where people of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal descent can come experience the colourful culture of the Native Canadians. This is especially important for Aboriginals living in cities where they have very few opportunities to participate in traditional practices. Elders present at Powwows will often conduct educational seminars and share their knowledge of traditional Aboriginal beliefs and culture. This helps many Aboriginals to learn more about their language and traditions and take pride in their heritage.