Canada’s Complicated History with First Nation Totem Poles

Canada has a complicated history with the totem pole. Totems have been misunderstood, coveted, stolen, quashed, copied, and celebrated.

The first recorded mention of a pole, which was a house pole,  was on Langara Island in the Haida village of Dadans, c.1790, by John Bartlett, who wrote: 

“We went ashore where one of their winter houses stood. The entrance was cut out of a large tree and carved all the way up and down. The door was made like a man's head and the passage the house was between his teeth and was built before they knew the use of iron."

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A Snapshot of On-Reserve Clean Water Issues

In Canada, access to clean drinking water is considered a given. A given, I suspect, that is frequently taken for granted by those who enjoy clean drinking water at the twist of the tap. For thousands of Indigenous Peoples, clean water at the twist of tap is an elusive dream. Entire generations in some communities have grown up under various degrees of drinking water advisories (DWA). The Neskantaga First Nation, with a population of about 240, in northern Ontario has had a DWA in place since 1996. That means one full generation has grown up under a DWA and a second generation is now growing up having never turned on the tap for a glass of water.

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Communications with Indigenous leaders - Letter Writing Tips

When communicating cross-culturally there are certain sensitivities around language used in the letter and expectations placed on the recipient of the letter. In this article we focus on some guidelines for writing a letter to request a meeting with an Indigenous leader and provide some tips, as well as some do’s and don’ts.

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8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues

 Did you know that adequate housing was recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Did you also know that one in five (19.4%) of Aboriginal people lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs in 2016? Or that In 2016, 18.3% of Aboriginal people lived in housing that was crowded? [1] Those stats are not for a developing country. 

Those stats are for Canada, which ranked as  the 24th wealthiest country in the world in 2017. In 2014, James Anaya, then-Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noted that housing in First Nation communities “has reached a crisis level.” [2]

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What is Indigenous Identity?

We identify ourselves in many ways - by gender, generation, ethnicity, cultural, religion, profession/employment, nationality, locality, language, hobby (biker, equestrian, knitter etc) and so on. We rarely identify ourselves in one category - it’s usually a combination of identities.

Identifying as an Indigenous person brings additional layers, complexities, and considerations. The added layers of identity can include, but are not limited to: whether or not a person has status, which nation, band, clan, or tribal council or treaty office they belong to, and whether or not they live in their home community or have migrated to an urban centre. 

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3 Rs of an Effective Indigenous Pre- Engagement Strategy

The foundation of meaningful engagement with an Indigenous community is trust. Earning that trust will take time, consistency, and transparency. The key to understanding why trust is not readily given lies in the history of Indigenous relations in Canada. It is next to impossible to respectfully and effectively engage with an Indigenous community without knowledge of this history.

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The ongoing impact of the Indian Act on Indigenous Peoples health

In nearly every country with an Indigenous population, and that includes some of the wealthiest countries in the world, there are disparities between the health of the Indigenous population and that of the non-Indigenous population. In 2017, Canada was ranked as the 24th wealthiest country in the world, according to Global Finance Magazine. Yet, the overall health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is well below that of the non-Indigenous population.

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A Look at Indigenous Relations in Canada for 2018 and Beyond

In 2017, Canada marked 150 years since confederation. To celebrate or not to celebrate was debated and discussed in the media, in Indigenous communities, and around dinner tables. The concept of not celebrating confederation was a profound shock to some but due to the benefit of the debates, awareness was raised that Indigenous Peoples have lived on land now known as Canada for far longer than 150 years. From those debates, a parallel but different celebration was launched - Canada 150+. The debates, discussions, and conversations triggered by the Canada 150 and Canada 150+ celebrations also brought insight to some regarding the impact those 150 years had on Indigenous Peoples.

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Definition of Smudging to Indigenous Protocol - Our Top 10 articles in 2017

In 2017, we had just over 816,000 visitors to our blog Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples® looking for information on a wide variety of topics related to Indigenous Peoples. Here are the top 10 most read articles from the past year, arranged with the most read first. 


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Shoebox Campaign is an opportunity to connect with Indigenous students

Sometimes it’s the simplest gestures that have the greatest impacts. The Shoebox Campaign is one such example. If you are unfamiliar with the campaign, it’s a very simple concept. Fill a shoe box with age and gender appropriate gifts, write a note to the student to let them know you care and encourage them to continue in school, include five dollars for shipping, and drop off at a collection point. Or, you can order pre-filled shoeboxes online. It’s that easy. And so effective. Schools in the program see an immediate drop in absenteeism and an increase in enrollment.

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