Called Tribal Peoples, First Peoples, Native Peoples, and Indigenous Peoples, these original inhabitants call themselves by many names in their 4,000 + unique languages and constitute about 6.2 percent of the world’s population.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are approximately 476.6 million Indigenous people in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries worldwide.
Indigenous people live in every region of the world, but about 70 percent live in Asia and the Pacific, followed by 16.3 percent in Africa, 11.5 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.6 percent in Northern America, and 0.
1 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
There is no universally accepted definition for “Indigenous,” though there are characteristics that tend to be common among Indigenous Peoples:
- Indigenous People are distinct populations relative to the dominant post-colonial culture of their country. They are often minority populations within the current post-colonial nations states. In Bolivia and Guatemala Indigenous people make up more than half the population.
- Indigenous People usually have (or had) their own language, cultures, and traditions influenced by living relationships with their ancestral homelands. Today, Indigenous people speak some 4,000 languages.
- Indigenous People have distinctive cultural traditions that are still practiced.
- Indigenous People have (or had) their own land and territory, to which they are tied in myriad ways.
- Indigenous People self-identify as Indigenous.
Examples of Indigenous Peoples include the Inuit of the Arctic, the White Mountain Apache of Arizona, the Yanomami and the Tupi People of the Amazon, traditional pastoralists the Maasai in East Africa, and tribal peoples the Bontoc people of the mountainous region of the Philippines.
The international human rights mechanisms – including: the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues (UNPFII); the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); and several Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures – serve in part to provide legal mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples to protect their rights (for example, the right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) — a key concept for self-determination and protecting Indigenous lands.) These entities, policies, and procedures present key opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to speak and advocate for themselves, their cultures, their lands, and their lifeways when state and local governments fail to honor and protect their rights.
Radio’s universal and free nature and its ability to access many remote communities makes it a key medium to reach Indigenous audiences.
Indigenous-produced programming strengthens Indigenous peoples’ capacity to assert and demand their rights and enables access to information on climate change, environmental issues, women’s rights, education, languages and cultures, self-determination, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Cultural Survival’s partners are amplifying Indigenous voices on issues that matter to their communities. Broadcasting in Indigenous languages ensures widespread understanding and cultural continuity.
Indigenous Peoples and the Environment
It is estimated that Indigenous territories contain 80 percent of the earth’s biodiversity. Indigenous lands also hold unquantified megatons of sequestered carbon as 11percent of the planet’s forests are under their guardianship.
These regions face an unprecedented and rapid loss of biodiversity and climate change effects resulting from the fossil fuel-based industrialized global economy and natural resource extraction. Many traditional Indigenous lands have become biodiversity “hotspots.
” For Indigenous Peoples, conservation of biodiversity is an integral part of their lives and is viewed as spiritual and functional foundations for their identities and cultures.
It is no coincidence that when the World Wildlife Fund listed the top 200 areas with the highest and most threatened biodiversity, they found that 95 percent are on Indigenous territories.
Indigenous Peoples and the environments they maintain are increasingly under assault from extractive industries such as mining, oil exploration, logging, and agro-industrial projects.
Indigenous Peoples resist this invasion with tremendous courage and skill, but their protests are too often ignored by governments and corporations.
It is no coincidence that 80 percent of the earth’s biodiversity is found on Indigenous lands. It is because of Indigenous people’s stewardship and relationship with the environment.
However, governments in Indigenous Peoples’ homelands and multinational corporations too often violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights by operating in their territories without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent…
Often culturally, linguistically and geographically separate from mainstream cultures, Indigenous Peoples lack the financial resources and access to decision-making platforms to demand a voice at the table and ensure that their best interests are represented.
Indigenous Peoples, having exhausted avenues in seeking justice and protection of their rights at the national level, can choose to seek international pressure and attention to their plights.
This is where Cultural Survival comes in
With your support, Cultural Survival empowers and supports Indigenous Peoples to advocate for their rights — human rights, the right to participate and have a voice, the right to practice their cultures and speak their languages, the right to access the same opportunities as others, and the right to control and sustainably manage their assets and resources — so that they may determine for themselves the future they will lead.
Indigenous Peoples in Canada
In this family portrait, we see the blending of two cultures. The father wears a European suit adorned with a pocket watch. The mother, who might be Métis, holds their infant in a cradle board, traditionally used by First Nations peoples. The shawls, worn by several of the women and girls, reflect Métis culture.
Inuit women in gala dress, Qatiktalik (Cape Fullerton), c. 1903-04. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Perry Bellegarde talk before the beginning of the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Québec, 2015.
There are three categories of Indigenous peoples in Canada: Inuit, Métis and First Nations.
The Inuit primarily inhabit the northern regions of Canada. Their homeland, known as Inuit Nunangat, includes much of the land, water and ice contained in the Arctic region. Métis peoples are of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and live mostly in the Prairie provinces and Ontario, but also in other parts of the country.
First Nations peoples were the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada, often occupying territories south of the Arctic.
The Indian Act — the principal statute through which the federal government manages a variety of issues concerning Indigenous affairs — further divides Indigenous peoples into two categories: Status Indians and Non-Status Indians. (See also Indian Status.
)Status Indians are individuals who are listed in the Indian Register and are issued identification cards (known as status cards) that contain information about their identity, band and registration number.
Non-Status Indians are Indigenous peoples who are not registered with the federal government (See also Indian).
All Indigenous peoples in Canada are protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which enshrines Indigenous rights. The federal government departments responsible for the affairs of Indigenous peoples are Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and Indigenous Services.
Many Indigenous nations have signed treaties with the Crown. These agreements have allowed for the use of Indigenous lands in exchange for annual payments and/or other benefits. Treaties form the constitutional and moral basis of alliance between Indigenous peoples and Canada.
Indigenous peoples have been in Canada since time immemorial. They formed complex social, political, economic and cultural systems before Europeans came to North America.
With colonization and white settlement, traditional Indigenous ways of life were forever altered. Colonial practices and policies, such as the Indian Act, pass system, reserves and residential schools, sought to control and assimilate Indigenous peoples. These have had historic and ongoing impacts on generations of Indigenous peoples.
Such practices and polices, when combined with racism, acts of segregation, loss of land, and declining or unequal access to food resources and public services, have had devastating consequences on the health and socio-economic well-being of Indigenous peoples. (See also Social Conditions of Indigenous Peoples and Economic Conditions of Indigenous Peoples.)
The final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women speak to ongoing work of reconciliation.
In the 2016 census, 1,673,785 people in Canada identified as Indigenous, making up 4.9 per cent of the national population.The First Nations population numbered 977,230, the Métis population was 587,545, and the Inuit population reached 65,025.
The Indigenous population in Canada is growing steadily; since 2006, it has grown by 42.5 per cent, more than four times the growth rate of the non-Indigenous population.
Statistics Canada has projected that in the next 20 years, the Indigenous population will ly grow to more than 2.5 million people.
The changes in population reflect increased life expectancy, high birth rates, and more people identifying as Indigenous in the 2016 census.
The 2016 census showed population growth in First Nations communities both on and off reserve; from 2006 to 2016, the on-reserve population grew 12.8 percent while the off-reserve population grew 49.1 per cent.
Statistics Canada also reported that the Métis are the most ly Indigenous group to live in an urban community; nearly two-thirds of the population lived in a city in 2016.
For the Inuit, nearly 75 per cent of the population inhabit Inuit Nunangat, a stretch of traditional territory covering the land, water and ice contained in the Arctic.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the 2016 Census, 11,620 people in Canada claimed Cherokee ancestry. The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribal nation in the United States.
Regional and Cultural Diversity
Indigenous peoples, both historical and contemporary, in North America can be divided into 10 cultural areas. Only the first six areas are found within the borders of Canada:
Contemporary political borders in North America do not reflect (and often overlap) traditional lands. For example, the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne straddles both provincial (Québec and Ontario) and international (New York State) borders, as its existence predates the establishment of the international border in 1783 (See also Indigenous Territory).
These areas are linguistic divisions first defined by the ethnologist and linguist Edward Sapir in 1910, while he was head of the Anthropology Division at the Geological Survey of Canada, which later became the Canadian Museum of History(See also Indigenous Languages in Canada). Sapir’s geographical framework was adopted by the Smithsonian Institution’s Handbook of North American Indians, the first volumes of which were published in 1978, and continues to be used widely in scholarship.
The Handbook states that these categories are “used in organizing and referring to information about contiguous groups that are or were similar in culture and history,” but it is important to note that these delineations are not concrete, and neighbouring peoples always share some similarities and some differences.
Rather than representing 10 distinct cultures, these areas reflect geographic and cultural groupings that are fluid and often intermixed. In addition, contemporary Indigenous peoples may live far from their ancestral homelands, and indeed may form new communities rooted in urban centres rather than traditional lands.
These cultural areas are massive and generalized; what is true of a part is not always true of the whole. For example, some sources further divide the Eastern Woodlands into the Southeast and Northeast regions, while others combine these regions into simply Woodlands, and as such one must not assume that all peoples in a cultural area shared the same experiences.
Research overviews of the six cultural areas in Canada provide only some specific anthropological information. The peoples included in these areas are in some ways similar and in other ways different.
What is true for the Wendat may not have been true for the Mi’kmaq, and indeed there existed variations among bands within a group.
When considering contemporary situations, it is impossible to assume that one issue, set of beliefs, or cultural reference can relate to all Indigenous people in Canada, though in contemporary politics, large-scale political movements Idle No More have gained wide acceptance and mobilization.
The ethnologists, archaeologists and anthropologists who have written about these cultural regions were often not Indigenous themselves.
Though much of this research was done through interviews and fieldwork, it inevitably operated within a settler-colonial framework — a worldview that privileges property acquisition, European-style government and economic growth — regardless of the positive intentions of the researcher. Nevertheless, this research remains valuable both as historical and historiographical tools.
List of Indigenous Peoples in Canada
In 2016, more than 1.6 million people identified as Indigenous in Canada. Below is a list of separate entries on various Indigenous nations in Canada. This is not a comprehensive list, but it provides insight into the history, society, culture, politics and contemporary life of various First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Canada.