What Is the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Animals

From time to time people ask me about the relationship between Indigenous peoples and animals. For some, the knowledge of the natural world - the land, plants, animals, seasons and cycles of nature - has been a central tenet of their lives and worldviews since the dawn of time. Their understanding of the natural world is sophisticated and comprehensive. The natural world, now commonly referred to as the “environment”, is not viewed as a separate entity but one, interconnected aspect of the whole. This interconnectedness equates to a moral responsibility to care for, live in harmony with, and respect the natural world.

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Hereditary Chief definition and 5 FAQs


"The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change." Sir John A Macdonald, 1887

Long before Prime Minister John A. Macdonald made the above statement of intent, the Indigenous Peoples who had occupied the land since time immemorial had effective, traditional forms of leadership and governance. The traditional form of governance pre-contact was most commonly based on leadership by hereditary chiefs. However, it should be noted that "chief" is a European term. Traditional leaders were headmen/women, clan leaders, heads of villages, or groups of people. 

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What are Appropriate Gifts for Indigenous Guest Speakers

This article goes out to all the people who organize events that include Indigenous speakers and we thank one of our readers for suggesting we write on this topic.

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The Relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Place Names

 What is the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and place names? Indigenous place names carry knowledge that has been passed from generation to generation - they are the story maps that connected Indigenous people to place and guided Indigenous people from place to place. This people and place connection has remained strong despite the era of assimilation and the impacts on culture and community.

DYK: In Canada close to 30 000 official place names are of Indigenous origin, and efforts are ongoing to restore traditional names to reflect Indigenous culture. [1]

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Indigenous Worldviews vs Western Worldviews

"Any individual within a culture is going to have his or her own personal interpretation of the collective cultural code; however, the individual's world view has its roots in the culture - that is, in the society's shared philosophy, values and customs. If we are to understand how Aboriginal and Eurocentric worldviews clash, we need to understand how the philosophy, values and customs of Aboriginal culture differ from those of Eurocentric cultures" [1]

The world we live in is multicultural with a corresponding plethora of worldviews. In this article, we provide a definition of "worldviews" and a comparison of Indigenous and Western worldview perspectives. Understanding the core differences between Indigenous worldviews and Western worldviews is an important component in achieving cultural harmony and respectful relationships. We are speaking in very general terms in the description of these differences and are in no way indicating that individual Indigenous cultures share the same worldviews; ditto for generalizations of Western worldviews.

Chief Tony Alexis and Pope Francis in Vatican City 2016 | Vatican Radio Facebook

First of all, what is the definition of a worldview?

“A worldview can pertain to an individual, group, or society. Overall, a worldview is a set of beliefs and values that are honoured and withheld by a number of people. A worldview includes how the person or group interacts with the world around them, including land, animals, and people. Every person and society has a worldview. Many societies pass on their worldview to their children to ensure worldview continuity. As people interact and learn from one another, it is not uncommon for them to acquire the beliefs of other worldviews. Worldviews evolve as people and societies evolve” [2]

Leroy Little Bear, professor

The root of the difference between the worldviews is that they generally subscribe to opposite approaches to knowledge, connectedness, and science. Indigenous cultures focus on a holistic understanding of the whole that emerged from the millennium of their existence and experiences. Traditional Western worldviews tend to be more concerned with science and concentrate on compartmentalized knowledge and then focus on understanding the bigger, related picture.

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews [3]


Indigenous worldview: Spiritually orientated society. System based on belief and spiritual world.
Western worldview: Scientific, skeptical. Requiring proof as a basis of belief.


Indigenous worldview: There can be many truths; truths are dependent upon individual experiences.
Western worldview: There is only one truth, based on science or Western-style law.


Indigenous worldview: Society operates in a state of relatedness. Everything and everyone is related. There is a real belief that people, objects and the environment are all connected. Law, kinship and spirituality reinforce this connectedness. Identity comes from connections.
Western worldview: Compartmentalized society, becoming more so.


Indigenous worldview: The land is sacred and usually given by a creator or supreme being.
Western worldview: The land and its resources should be available for development and extraction for the benefit of humans.


Indigenous worldview: Time is non-linear and cyclical in nature. Time is measured in cyclical events. The seasons are central to this cyclical concept.
Western worldview: Time is usually linearly structured and future-orientated. The framework of months, years, days etc reinforces the linear structure.


Indigenous worldview: Feeling comfortable is measured by the quality of your relationships with people.
Western worldview: Feeling comfortable is related to how successful you feel you have been in achieving your goals.


Indigenous worldview: Human beings are not the most important in the world.
Western worldview: Human beings are the most important in the world.


Indigenous worldview: Amassing wealth is important for the good of the community
Western worldview: Amassing wealth is for personal gain

It also has been suggested that in any society there is a dominant worldview that is held by most members of that society. Alternative worldviews do exist, but they are not usually held by the majority of society. [4]

“We must learn to live together or perish together as fools.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Understanding and respecting the differences in worldviews will help in relationship-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. So, if you ever find yourself in a situation in which you encounter an opposing worldview and are perhaps not quite understanding it, we suggest you open the “curiosity” portal in your mind and try really hard to see across worldviews. This is what is meant by cultural competency.

This is a very brief description of the basic differences between Indigenous Peoples' worldviews and western worldviews. We encourage readers to do further reading to expand their knowledge of the topics we present on our blog.

[1] John Ralston Saul, The Comeback

[2] Teaching Treaties website

[3] Adapted from Working with Aboriginal Worldviews, Anne Mead

[4] Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work

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Understanding the historical and ongoing impacts of the Indian Act is a key component for reconciliation. Our book, 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act, provides that understanding.

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Indigenous or Aboriginal Which Is Correct?

“Which is correct? Indigenous or Aboriginal” is a frequently asked question for us at Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. The federal government’s move to first change the name of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to Crown-Indigenous Relations Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) indicates the intent of a changing relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. But it has people confused and asking which is correct. Indigenous or Aboriginal? We really appreciate the question and the motive behind the question - to respect Indigenous Peoples by using the correct terminology.

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12 Days of Reconciliation With Indigenous Peoples

To support the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and in the spirit of Christmas, we have put together 12 suggestions for what individuals can do to contribute to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples during this holiday season.

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Indigenous Peoples and the Environment

“Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Federal and provincial governments come and go and take with them their particular view of the value of protecting the environment. Indigenous Peoples on the other hand who do not come and go (have been here since time immemorial) place an extremely high value on protecting the environment and the resources that are important to them.

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Uncivil Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples

Uncivil dialogue in Canada is alive and well, if only as indicated by the nature of the statements and conversations that take place in the comments section of online news articles related to Indigenous Peoples. The consistent vitriolic statements on some items on CBC Indigenous online news unit caused the editor to temporarily shut down the comment section.

“We've noticed over many months that these stories draw a disproportionate number of comments that cross the line and violate our guidelines. Some of the violations are obvious, some not so obvious; some comments are clearly hateful and vitriolic, some are simply ignorant. And some appear to be hate disguised as ignorance (i.e., racist sentiments expressed in benign language).” [1]

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Federal Gov Adopts Indigenous Peoples Terminology and Why I am Optimistic

While listening to Justin Trudeau’s inspiring acceptance speech on the night of October 19th, 2015, I was filled with a sense of cautious optimism. When the then Prime Minister designate evoked the Royal Proclamation in his reference to “nation-to-nation” relations with Indigenous Peoples in Canada I felt encouraged that here was a leader who could move the Crown Indigenous Peoples relations from litigious to reconciliation.

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