Hello everyone! Clement from Westcoast here.
Canada is home to many amazing cultures, from all over the world. What many do not know is that Canada is also a host to many of its own indigenous cultures. In fact, the word “Canada” comes from one of the indigenous languages meaning “village”.
First Nations, First Peoples, or Aboriginals are the words used to refer to many of the indigenous groups in Canada and North America. They have history that goes back as far as 2500 years ago, and each group has its own distinct language, culture, food and society. Just in British Columbia, from the coast to the interior, there are many different groups including the Coast Salish, Squamish, Shishalh or Sechelt, Kwikwetlem or Coquitlam, Qualicum, Cowichan, Interior Salish, Tlingit, Athapaskans, Tunaxa, and many others, and that is only British Columbia!
First Nations culture has influenced much of Canadian culture, including vocabulary introduced into English, famous structures such as totem poles, and others. Many places in we are familiar with are named after certain First Nations groups. the potluck, where everyone attending brings something to share, also has connections with the similar Potlatch gift giving ceremony.
One of the most famous things that have been made by First Nations are the totem poles, which can be found in various parks around Vancouver. Totem poles are a tradition of the West Coast First Nations peoples like the Haida and Coast Salish. These are tall sculptures, usually made of red Cedar, which contain images of various significant things to the maker such as animals, legends, historical events, ancestors, etc.
First Nations people make many beautiful crafts and other such things with natural resources such as cedar wood, bark, yarn, etc. The dream catcher is perhaps the most famous along with the totem pole. It is typically a hoop made of willow wood, and then woven with a loose web of beads or feathers. Dream catchers were traditionally given to children as a way to prevent bad dreams and for the children to only hold onto good dreams. They have become an important of First Nations and Native American culture.
The people of the First Nations have played an unmistakable part in making Canadian culture what it is today. Sadly, most people are not aware of this and rarely think about it… but if you are looking for things that are uniquely Canadian, learn about the Aboriginal cultures along with the rest of this country’s amazing cultural and ethnic diversity!