Becoming a Canadian: Knowing About Our First Nations

Peter B. Giblett By Peter B. Giblett, 25th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Immigration & Emigration

Canada draws its citizens from all parts of the globe. Newcomers also need to understand that there were many people living in Canada before the first European settlers arrived since Columbus sailed across to ocean blue to discover the new lands of America and settlement was possible.

First Nations

The first settlers in North America are believed to have migrated from Central Asia many thousands of years ago. they were well established in these lands well before the time Columbus discovered the "New World" in 1492 he opened up new lands for migration and settlement by Europeans and others to these lands.

The term "First Nations" collectively refers to the various indigenous peoples within Canada. It includes all of the tribes within the borders of Canada. To call the Native American people Indian is of course incorrect and related to Columbus's original goal to sail west and set up trading routes to India, yet the name seems to have stuck with native tribes still referring to themselves as Indian today.


Many of the newer generations of Canadians may find some of the beliefs of Native Americans to be strange, especially when compared to religious beliefs and practices of Christianity. Yet these beliefs are as important for these people as Christianity was for early settlers. According to Geronimo, Goyathlay (1829-1909), Chiricahua Apache Chief "We had no churches, no religious organizations, so Sabbath day, no holidays, and yet we worshiped". Native practices clearly differ from the new inhabitants in Canada.

Prior to European contact, the deep knowledge of indigenous cultures was highly developed, sophisticated, coherent and included myths and traditions that were transmitted orally from one generation to the next, that explained the origins of First Nations and their relationship to the wider natural world.

Some native peoples worshiped a powerful, all-knowing "Master Spirit" also known as the creator. This seemingly mapped onto the Christian image of god. However most native cultures base their beliefs on the doctrine of animism, that is that all living beings are either influenced by or possess spirits. In other words, all aspects of the natural world have souls that remain independent of their physical manifestation in the living world. Another aspect, belief in the immortality of the human soul and an afterlife also has parallels in judo-christian belief systems.

It would be impossible to cover the subject of the beliefs of native American tribes within a small sub-section of an article such as this. For further information you would be advised to perform a Google search on "first nation religious belief" and obtain all the latest and most relevant information.

For the New Canadian

This article is a part of a series of articles about becoming a Canadian Citizen. Other articles include:

* So You Want to Become a Canadian Citizen
* Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship
* Canada and the Importance of the War of 1812

Treaty Rights and Breaches

The Canadian constitution protects the rights of First Nations. These rights were first granted by royal proclamation in 1763, by King George III. Yet it has to be said that treaty rights were not always respected.

One of the first Canadians that I met is First Nations. He told be about being taken from his family and placed in a residential school that was intended to educate and assimilate natives into mainstream Canadian culture. I found this to be shocking yet it was a part of Canadian history from the mid 1800's up until the 1980's. Native languages and practices were mostly prohibited in these schools. Many of the schools were underfunded and inflicted great hardships on the students. There have also been complaints of physical abuse by teachers or others running the schools.

Hardly providing the foundation for a unified country. It is true that the Canadian Federal Government has formally apologized to former students of these schools and the program has been closed.

Native Pride?

According to the Citizenship & Immigration Canada book "Discover Canada", the guide for future citizens who are looking to take their citizenship exams over the next few months, "aboriginal peoples enjoy renewed pride and confidence". It is true that they have significant achievements in business, agriculture, and the arts.

Yet there are still arguments over land rights and other issues shown on news programs from time to time. Half the native population still live on 'reserve' land; whereas the other half of the population are perhaps more integrated with other Canadians, living in urban centres.


There are a number of terms used both in this article and in government documents

* Aboriginal people is a collective term used for all native Canadian people
* First Nations make up about 65% of the aboriginal inhabitants.
* Inuit are about 4%, and
* 30% are M├ętis (people of mixed native and European descent)


Canada, Citizenship, First Nations

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar Retired
25th Oct 2011 (#)

Good information...thanks for sharing....

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author avatar vpaulose
26th Oct 2011 (#)

Helpful information.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
26th Oct 2011 (#)

Nice article Peter. Thank you.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
26th Oct 2011 (#)

my husband's aunt and her family moved to Canada about 30 years ago. They all now have citizenship and wouldn't dream of ever returning to England - except for a holiday!

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
10th Nov 2011 (#)

I know England has changed a lot but not where my family live.

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