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Why Is It Difficult To Define An Aboriginal Person?

1413 words - 6 pages

Aboriginal peoples occupied Canadian lands long before the country was established and yet their position within Canadian hierarchy is often questioned. Colonialism imposed Euro-Canadian standards on First Nations peoples, challenging socio-cultural traditions and norms in the process. The implications of this decision propagate a longstanding marginalization of Aboriginal people, which is still experienced today (Frideres and Gasacz 1). Historical circumstances have created an unbalanced dichotomy of Aboriginal identity: what their identity means to Aboriginal people, versus what Canada, particularly the country’s policy-makers, desire them to be. This paper will outline why it is difficult to define an Aboriginal person as they are constantly faced with forcefully altered identities, definitions, and place amidst transcending political borders.
The identities of Aboriginal peoples have always been complex, however the act of colonization hindered the separate understanding of Aboriginal groups, given that “the process of acculturation and the demise of indigenous Aboriginal tribal associations [has] eroded Aboriginal self-identification” (11) for some time. Aboriginal people lack a homogeneous worldview, which has challenged the idea of a single form of “Aboriginality” (25). Each group is very different; their locations, language, religious practices, and traditions play a major role in their contrasting identities. Their shared misrepresentation prevented the healthy development of their social and cultural identity, which continues to make it increasingly difficult to pinpoint a concise definition to define an Aboriginal person from the Euro-Canadian perspective. The title of “malcontents, troublemakers and opportunists” (13), according to the historical perspective of most colonists, does not accurately label Aboriginals. The reason their identity is difficult to determine is the reality that being ‘Aboriginal’ encompasses three very distinct groups: Indians, Inuit, and Métis. These groups are further divided into sub-groups ¬– Red River Métis, Cree, Ojibwa, and the list goes on. A single identity cannot be enforced, as each sub-group contains individual differences (26). One consolidated image is a disservice to each sub-group as it creates a fragmented understanding of Aboriginal people, especially after the repercussions of early colonization were enforced.
Colonization put long-term constraints on Aboriginal people as they were placed in a peripheral position in society, where they were subject to prejudice and discrimination (1). Most Aboriginal groups were grouped together in one section, which makes it difficult to define their separate attributes in contrast with similarities between the various groups. There was little concern for their well-being, as the British colonial vision for Canada deemed Aboriginals unfit for ‘civilized’ society. Before the 1980s, elite colonists thought Aboriginals were ‘barbaric’ and a hindrance on...

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