First Nations, Métis and Inuit Cultures

Approximately 1.8 million people in Canada identify as being indigenous. Indigenous peoples in Canada have cultural traditions that existed thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans just over 400 years ago.  Canada’s indigenous peoples consist of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.  Indigenous cultures are very diverse.  Each group has its own culture, values, symbols, and spiritual traditions, and it is inaccurate to talk of a common culture amongst such rich diversity; for example, there are over 600 bands of First Nations.  There are also many indigenous languages and dialects. Using words such as “Indian,” `mixed-breed` or “Eskimo” to describe indigenous peoples may still appear in outdated legal documents, but today these words are generally considered inappropriate and insulting.

The history of indigenous peoples in Canada since European settlement has been a story of suffering, paternalism, and broken promises.  In recent years, Canadian governments and the whole population of Canada have been more attentive and understanding in making efforts to right the wrongs of past historical injustices.  Past practices of assimilation by governments and other institutions, such as taking children away from their traditional homes to residential schools, have been abolished and a growing respect and appreciation of indigenous cultures is evident.

Indigenous cultures are celebrated throughout Canada and contribute a great richness and diversity to Canadian culture in many unique ways.  For international students, there are numerous opportunities to participate and attend festivals and experience ceremonial activities. For example, there are large cultural gatherings called “powwows” where dancing, music, as well as arts and crafts are showcased, and everyone is welcome to learn about and experience indigenous culture.

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