The history of Vancouver begins with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada who thrived in the province for time immemorial.
Whilst in Vancouver or anywhere in British Columbia, you will notice distinct cultures, languages, history, Native art, and festivals that became a huge part of the province. Cities like Nanaimo, Chilliwack, Coquitlam and Kamloops are names that derived from Indigenous People’s lexicon.
Vancouver rests on the unceded traditional territories of the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations Peoples who prospered on these lands for more than 10,000 years. In the early 19th century, the British Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) – a trade and land sales division that is the longest surviving Canadian department store which has since rebranded – opened its first store in Manitoba and quickly prospered. By 1849, the HBC wanted control of Vancouver Island as well, with the knowledge of Vancouver’s resources, its necessary capital and experience interacting with the Indigenous Peoples. It was not long until HBC received a Charter of Grant for control of the land then colonization quickly snowballed. In 1862, British Columbia experienced a gold rush which brought tens of thousands of men to Vancouver Island in search of fortune, they were unsympathetic to the Indigenous People and the land they had just invaded.
The invaders began to demand more land. As territories was stripped from the Natives, so was their access to hunting grounds and fertile soil. With colonization and white settlement, the ways of life for the Indigenous Peoples were altered. Practices like the Indian Act, reserves residential schools, and pass systems. Racism, segregation and land loss resulted in ruinous consequences for the Indigenous Peoples health and socioeconomic well-being.
Even with all the efforts by the British to erase the Indigenous Peoples culture, however, their perseverance is truly a testament to their dedication and adoration for their community, culture, traditions, and history. These are the Indigenous People of Canada and there is so much to learn and admire about them.
Inuit People of the World
They are a group of Indigenous Peoples who reside in the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Denmark and the United States.
In Canada, the Inuit Peoples mainly live in the provinces of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador. These territories are referred to as Inuit Nunangat. For centuries, the Inuit Peoples managed to survive the freezing, harsh environments of northern Canada through their strong leadership and ability to adapt. Their diet was primarily fish and sea mammals, including: whales, walruses, and seals. Out of respect for those creatures, they made sure to use all parts of the animal not just for food but for tools and clothes as well. Due to natural landscape, the Inuit Peoples were unable to find fruits and vegetables. Despite their inability to consume legumes, they managed to live generally healthy lives and had impressive lifespans. The Inuit Peoples are incredibly innovative, by making harpoons and spears for hunting. In addition to parka coats, blankets, and kayaks. Their society places a high value on community and “decision-making through discussion and consensus.” They used dog-pulled sleds made from animal bones to traverse the snowy terrain.
The Inuit Peoples culture is influenced by their land’s ruthless climate and Arctic tundra, this is evident in their beliefs that are inspired by the Aurora Borealis. The Inuit Peoples also enjoy the traditional practice of throat singing which involves two women facing one another and using their diaphragm to create breathy-like sounds. The practice goes back and forth as they try to match each other’s rhythm. It is incredibly intimate but not uncommon for the participants to accidentally smile or burst into laughter.
- “Inuk” (in-oo-/k/) refers to an individual Inuit person.
- “Inuit” (in-you-et) refers to 3 or more.
- Refer to the community as “Inuit” or “Inuit People of the World.”
- Refer to them as Eskimos, it is considered disrespectful in Canada (Eskimo refers to the Yupik People of Siberia and Alaska, they are not Inuit.)
Capitalized Métis refers to the Métis Nation who are a people of mixed Indigenous and European descent developed after contact between Europeans and First Nations Peoples. They trace their origins back to the Red River Valley. They are their own distinct type of Indigenous People who are separate from the Inuit and First Nations, meanwhile they reside in the three Prairie Provinces: British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Ontario. The Métis Nation have their own ancestral language (Michif,) culture and history. When spelled in lower case, métis means an individual of mixed race with European and Indigenous ancestry but does not have historical ties to the Red River Valley, making him/her not a member of the Métis Nation.
The Métis Nation is the result of marriage between male European explorers and First Nations women. The Métis Nation culture began to emerge through the blending of the Natives culture and the European’s customs. They lived in tipis due to nomadic lifestyle following the buffalo. They adopted European clothing but also wore moccasins and beaded jewelry. Their language is a type of Creole, it is a blend of Cree and Canadian French. In the early 19th century, the Métis had gained a reputation as the best hunters and horseman.
- “Métis” (may-TEE) are a collective people that have both European and Indigenous ancestry, belongs to the historic Métis Nation Ancestry from the Red River Valley and is accepted by the Métis Nation.
- “Métis” (may-TEE) refers to individuals of both Indigenous and European ancestry; mixed-race, do not belong to the collective Métis Nation.
This term is used to identify Indigenous Peoples of Canada who do not belong to the Inuit nor the Métis. First Nations Peoples predominantly live in Canada just south of the Arctic Circle. There are more than 600 First Nations or bands that are recognized by Canada. 198 distinct First Nations live in British Columbia, each with its own traditions and ways of life. The province has more than 30 different First Nations languages, while approximately 60 different dialects are spoken.
- Use “First Nations when referring to a single band or multiple bands.
- Use “First Nation community” as an alternative to First Nations.
- Refer to the First Nations Peoples as “Indians” or Indian band.”
- Refer to the First Nations Peoples as “Aboriginal Peoples.”