Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples™

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The Impact of Smallpox on First Nations on the West Coast


“The Bostonian Robert Kemp, on the brig Otter just north of the Queen Charlotte Islands in December 1810, reported that "the Natives are all infected with the Land Scurvy which Renders them Completely Incapable of Hunting[.] this Coast is as Silent and Solitary as the House of death and I wish that I was Clear from it." [1]

Throughout the Americas, Indigenous contact with Europeans was soon followed with drastic declines in Indigenous populations. With no natural immunity to diseases introduced by the Europeans, Indigenous Peoples were decimated by waves of epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, influenza and measles. [2] The smallpox virus, which came not so much as waves but as tsunamis, decimated the coastal First Nation population not once, but at least twice. Smallpox devastated Indigenous populations in other regions of the country as well but here we focus on the impact of smallpox on First Nations on the West coast.

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Topics: Aboriginal History

A Tribute to the late Chief Beau Dick

Chief Beau Dick, or Gigame’ ‘Walas Gwa’yam, was born on November 23, 1955  and passed away, far too soon, on March 27, 2017.

He was a world renowned Indigenous artist and Indigenous rights advocate who made significant contributions to family, friends, community, and the culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw. His contributions were immeasurable, his reputation immense, his humility legendary.

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Topics: Famous Aboriginal People

Why Canada Needs Indigenous Economic Reconciliation


"Trade and specialization were common to First Nations in Canada and throughout the Americas in the pre- and early contact periods. Moreover, public infrastructure, standards, mediums of exchange, and property rights to support markets were also common before contact. Pre- and early contact First Nations in Canada had all six market characteristics required to promote economic growth.


This conclusion should not be surprising as the history of Canada is one of First Nation trade with Europeans. What would have been the history of Canada if the Hurons had not traded canoes to the eventual voyageurs? It has been argued by Harold Innis that the fur trade created Canada. The stories of initial First Nation contact with Europeans are almost entirely a result of trade and markets." [1]


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Topics: Indigenous economic development

Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples™ Blog Passes 1 Millionth Visitor


I am delighted to announce that our blog, Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples™, surpassed the 1 millionth visitor milestone in mid-March. I started the blog in 2011 as a free resource for people seeking information about Indigenous Peoples. It spluttered along for a couple of years slowly gaining traction. Our biggest month was 7,000 visitors. I wanted to reach a greater audience so moved to a platform called Hubspot, and that is when the blog really took off. We now have an average of 60,000 visitors a month which is quite a leap from our earlier efforts.

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Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Awareness

A Brief Definition of Decolonization and Indigenization


Decolonization once viewed as the formal process of handing over the instruments of government, is now recognized as a long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power [1] 



Make indigenous; subject to native influence [2]


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Ever since the release in 2015 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s summary report on residential schools there has been an awakening on the part of non-Indigenous Canadians to the harsh realities of the Indigenous experience in Canada. The Commission’s 94 calls-to-action (CTAs) have ignited organizations and institutions to examine their operations and identify ways to answer and implement applicable CTAs. These actions and initiatives often lead to discussions on a broader context about decolonization and indigenization. But, what do those terms mean? This article provides a very basic explanation of a very complex topic.

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Topics: Indigenous Awareness

3 Things to know about Alberta Carbon Tax Exemptions and First Nations

Carbon tax is a form of pollution tax. It levies a fee on the production, distribution or use of fossil fuels based on how much carbon their combustion emits. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then translates it into a tax on electricity, natural gas or oil. Because the tax makes using dirty fuels more­ expensive, it encourages utilities, businesses and individuals to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency. Carbon tax also makes alternative energy more cost-competitive with cheaper, polluting fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. [1]


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Topics: Indigenous Awareness

Was There an Upside to Residential Schools

"I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part,"

"The fathers and sons and family members of the nuns and priests, to this day, have to bear the reputation as well, and nobody meant to hurt anybody," she said. "The little smiles in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are real, the clothes are clean and the meals are good. There were many people who came from residential schools with good training and good language skills, and, of course, there were the atrocities as well…….I was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report in that it didn't focus on the good. The people I talk to are Christians." Senator Lynn Beyak, a member of the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee, March 8, 2017

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Topics: Reconciliation

Developing Your Indigenous Procurement Strategy

A procurement strategy is the plan as to how your organization will procure (acquire) the cost-effective goods and services required to successfully operate. An Indigenous procurement strategy (IPS) is just as it sounds - a strategy to procure cost-effective goods and services from Indigenous firms, and are typically part of an Impact and Benefit Agreement between an organization and an Indigenous community.

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Topics: Indigenous relations, Indigenous economic development

Reflections in 2017 on the 1967 Centennial Speech of Chief Dan George

As Canadians from coast to coast to coast prepare to mark Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017 I wanted to revisit and reflect on the late Chief Dan George’s speech “Lament for Confederation” made on the occasion of Canada’s 100th birthday. I thought it would make a good measuring stick to see how things have changed for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

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Topics: Famous Aboriginal People, Aboriginal History, Reconciliation

A Definition of Smudging

Sacred smoke created from burning medicinal or sacred plants is an aspect of many cultures and religions the world over. In North America, it is a practice common to Indigenous Peoples and is called smudging. Many, but not all, Indigenous cultures in Canada smudge but may have different beliefs associated with the smoke, and different ceremonies and protocols. In this article we are giving a general definition of smudging.

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Topics: Indigenous Awareness