On the Margins: Aboriginal Realities and ‘White Man’s Research’
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According to the 2011 census, Aboriginal Canadians constitute 4% of the population of Canada (Statistics Canada, 2013). It is a relatively young population, with the average age being 27 years for Aboriginal Canadians as compared to 40 years for non-Aboriginal Canadians. Although ‘Aboriginal’ is the official Canadian term, many indigenous communities prefer terms based on self-governance, of which there are three main groups: the First Nations who are scattered throughout the country, the Inuit who are primarily based in the Arctic and the Métis people, who are of mixed — European (mostly French) and Aboriginal — ancestry. It is widely accepted that one commonality across Aboriginal peoples is their history of colonisation. Part of this history involved the systematic extinction of ‘Indianness’ and policies of ‘aggressive assimilation’. These policies were executed, among others, by ‘negotiating’ treaties that forced indigenous people to live on isolated, often remote, plots of land: the reserves. For most, this way of living brought an end to their traditional nomadic existence. Often reserves were too barren for farming, and if conditions were favourable, farming was not allowed so that Aboriginal people had to buy food and goods from Western settlers. Cultural and spiritual practices such as the potlatch exchange (a ritual involving the gifting of goods to guests) of the Pacific coast communities were also outlawed, but due to the perseverance of many elders some of these ceremonies have managed to survive.
KeywordsIndigenous People Aboriginal People Life Story Aboriginal Reality Cultural World
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