Myths and facts about Indigenous peoples

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Myth: Indigenous people do not pay taxes.
Fact: All Indigenous people are required to pay taxes like all other Canadians. There are exceptions for those who have a Status Card in very specific situations, such as when they purchase goods and services on a reserve or earn their income on a reserve.

Myth: Indigenous peoples never had a written language.
Fact: European and Asian writing systems are one way of transmitting information in visual symbols, but there are others. Indigenous peoples have used symbols and a variety of markings to communicate and tell a story. Totem poles are a great example of the use of visual language.

Myth: Everything that happened to the Indigenous peoples happened so long ago that they should just get over it.
Fact: They are still dealing with the effects of colonization. For example, the Indian Act still controls many aspects of their lives and places limits on Indigenous peoples, and new developments happen in Indigenous communities and cultures every day.

Myth: Indigenous peoples are all the same.
Fact: Indigenous peoples across Canada are very diverse. They are composed of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. They speak over 50 different languages. They have a wide range of cultural practices and traditions.

Myth: Indigenous cultures were very primitive.
Fact: Indigenous peoples have had complex cultures, and systems of governance, commerce and trade, and agriculture. Indigenous cultures and traditions are thriving today.

Myth: All Indigenous people get a free university education.
Fact: Some may get money for school if they have a Status Card and if their First Nation has money to fund all or part of their post-secondary degree. Many receive no help at all from their communities or the government.

Myth: Nothing happened to the younger generation so what is their excuse?
Fact: Colonization has had a lasting effect on Indigenous communities. This has resulted in challenges including poverty, depression, intergenerational trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. There are many social and economic barriers the communities and their youth must overcome in order to break this harmful cycle. Many Indigenous people continue to experience racism, sometimes direct and intentional, and sometimes in the form of uninformed misunderstandings.

Do you believe any or all of these myths?

Most newcomers tend to believe these false notions when they come to Canada. This is probably because the information about Indigenous Peoples most of us get only come from media and what we hear from acquaintances. These sources only show part of the picture so we tend to form negative connotations about them even before we get to know them. Even those who are Canadian-born can fall into this trap. This is what “First Contact,” a television show from APTN recently explored. The show features six Canadians who were given a chance to immerse in Indigenous Communities in Winnipeg, Nunavut, Alberta, Northern Ontario, and the coast of BC. It is divided into three episodes and details how their real-life experience challenged their perceptions, confronted their opinions about the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and busted these aforementioned myths. You can watch “First Contact” from the link below:

Episode 1: The Journey Begins
Episode 2: A Group Divided
Episode 3: The Road to Healing
All three episodes are streaming on APTN First Contact.
Sources: Myths and Facts adapted from First Peoples. A Guide for Newcomers, Kory Wilson and Jane Henderson, 2014. Published by the City of Vancouver. (Published with permission). “First Contact” is produced by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Accessed on October 15, 2018.

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Community Resources

To know more about the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, read What newcomers should know about residential schools and Have you heard about the ’60s Scoop?

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