Respecting the Cultural Diversity of Indigenous Peoples

December 06, 2019

“Anishinaabe, Métis, Coastal Salish, Cree, Cherokee. We have nothing much in common. We’re all aboriginal and we have the drum. That’s about it.”

Thomas King writing about a drum circle in “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

Photo: Shutterstock

Not recognizing the cultural diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is one of the most common mistakes non-Indigenous people make when engaging with Indigenous communities.

Respect for cultural diversity is an aspect of Canadian society that is of great appeal to people from other countries who want to move here and is supported by the Multiculturalism Act of 1988. The average Canadian would proudly say they respect cultural diversity.

However, cultural diversity within the Indigenous population is frequently not recognized nor respected in common practice. There is a misconception that Indigenous Peoples are one homogenous group who share the same culture, traditions, worldviews, language, needs and desires. Little could be further from the truth.

There are three distinct groups of Indigenous Peoples - First Nation or Indian, Métis and Inuit as defined by the British North America Act, 1867, the Indian Act; and the Constitution Act, 1982. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, 1,673,785 respondents self-identified as an Indigenous person.

Let’s take a look at the largest group - First Nations. There are over 600 bands and over 2,000 reserves - each one with a distinct history that shaped their particular cultural identity. They each have distinct economies, capacities, and challenges.

In BC alone there is an amazing diversity of First Nation culture and language - there are over 200 First Nation communities in the province - each with its own unique culture, traditions and history. These 200 communities represent 60% of the First Nation languages spoken in Canada. Speaking of language, did you know that outside of Quebec, English is becoming the common language of Indigenous people in Canada?

Recognition of the unique history, culture and traditions of each community is a fundamental first step Canadians can take to respect Indigenous Peoples. If readers believe Indigenous Peoples should all be equal then they are not respecting and recognizing diversity.

In terms of an extractive company, an educator, a government representative, or average Joe or Josephine (to be respectful) time spent researching and developing an understanding of the unique background of each community will increase your understanding of what is important to that community, what they are proud of, and what they will fight to protect.

Thanks for your interest in learning about the diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada.

Sign up for our Working Effectively With Indigenous Peoples Training

Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Awareness

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.
Covenant House logo, photo of Trevor Snider - Commemorating a Reconciliation Ally - Donate today!

About this Blog

Let this blog be your guide to Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples®. We have hundreds of articles loaded with tips, suggestions, videos, and free eBooks for you. Happy reading!

Subscribe to the Indigenous Relations Newsletter

Recent Posts

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., provides information on this blog for free as a resource for those seeking information about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Readers looking for more detailed information, or who have questions, can sign up for our fee-for-service training. Also, ICT encourages everyone who reads this information to use their best judgment given their own circumstances, vulnerabilities, and needs, and to contact a consulting or legal professional if you have more specific questions. Join the conversation over on our Linkedin page.