Facts about Indigenous culture and history you should know

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There are more First Nations and Metis people living in Winnipeg than in any other city in Canada

  1. Indigenous Peoples represented 13.6% of Manitoba’s population in 2001.
  2. They made 8.5% of the total population in Winnipeg (Manitoba Indigenous and Northern Relations).
  3. Manitoba has the largest number of Metis people per capita in Canada.
  4. They are a significant and integral part of Manitoban society.

Negative image

  1. Newcomers hear more negative things about Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Lack of a complete understanding of the culture, history, and the challenges Indigenous Peoples faced (and continue to face) in society lead to a negative perception.
  3. Some are afraid of Indigenous Peoples. We don’t understand them.
  4. This creates a division. Most newcomers do not interact with Indigenous Peoples.

5 facts about the Indigenous Peoples of Manitoba:

Learning more about our Indigenous brothers and sisters leads to better understanding and developing respect. It prevents us from having wrong ideas about them.

  1. There are three groups of Indigenous peoples in Manitoba
    • They are:
      • First Nations (Treaty and Status Indians)
      • Inuit (Non-Status and other)
      • Métis
    • The term “First Nation” has replaced the term “Indian”.
      • It has also replaced “band” in the name of their communities to some extent.
      • There are 63 First Nations communities in Manitoba.
      • This includes Ojibway, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene.
    • Inuit people traditionally lived in Canada’s far north, or the Arctic.
    • Métis are people of mixed First Nation and European ancestry. They have a unique culture with ancestral origins such as Scottish, French, Ojibway, and Cree.
    • An important note: “Indian”, “Eskimo”, and “Native” are not appropriate to use.
    • The correct terms are “Indigenous”, “First Peoples” or “First Nations”.
    • Read Get to know the Indigenous Peoples of Manitoba.
  2. Indigenous culture is diverse
    • The Indigenous Peoples is not a single cultural group.
    • They share similar traits such as a deep connection to the land and to nature.
    • But different groups have different languages, culture, histories, beliefs, and identity.
    • There are over 60 Indigenous languages in Canada (Statistics Canada). Among these are:
      • Ojibway or Oji-Cree belonging to the Algonquian language family
      • Michif, the traditional language of the Métis
      • Inuktitut, the native language of Inuits
    • They also have different cultural practices, beliefs and spiritual practices.
  3. We share similar histories
    • Many immigrants move to Manitoba because of oppression, displacement, or human rights abuse in their home countries.
    • Indigenous Peoples can relate to this situation.
    • Indigenous Peoples have struggled for self-determination, land entitlement, and self-government.
    • This was from the time the very first European settlers arrived in Canada and for many years since.
    • Indigenous People were displaced from their land. They were pushed into reserves. They were denied the right to their own culture.
    • Many lost their identity because of residential schools. These were government-sponsored religious schools that forced the children to assimilate into Canadian culture.
  4. We celebrate many festivals celebrating Indigenous culture in Manitoba
  5. Louis Riel, founder of Manitoba, was a Métis
    • Louis Riel was a teacher and a leader.
    • He is regarded as one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history.
    • He sought to preserve the culture and the rights of the Métis.
    • He created the Manitoba Act of 1870 which paved the way for Manitoba to be part of the Confederation.
    • Read 5 facts about Manitoba’s founder Louis Riel to know more about the exemplary life of this visionary and leader.
    • There are hundreds of notable Indigenous People in the arts, business, government and in most sectors of society today.
    • Learn about:
      • Elijah Harper, politician
      • Rosemarie Kuptana, human rights leader
      • Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer
      • Alanis Obomsawin, documentary filmmaker
      • Chief Dan George, actor
      • Daphne Odjig, artist
    • and many others who had significant contributions to Canadian society.

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia; Aboriginal diversity spans language, culture, Bob Weber, The Canadian Press; 8 things newcomers should know about Aboriginal culture and history, Canadian Immigrant Magazine; Aboriginal Music Week site; Tourism Winnipeg.

With thanks to Bernice Pranteau, BSW, Educational Counsellor for reviewing the article.

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