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First Peoples

The designated focus of this section of the new Secondary Cycle 2 History and Citizenship Course in Quebec is "Links between Native societies' conception(s) of the world and the organization of their societies."

Note that this collection is being developed and continually being updated.  It will soon be updated to align more closely with the new Progressions of Learning.
If you have suggestions for sites or complementary activities, let us know here.

General First Peoples Resource Collections:

General Resource Sites:

The following are links to sits about aboriginal peoples in Canada, either as a whole or by group.  (This section is new.  Links here may indeed repeat in other sections below.)

First Peoples of Canada


Four Directions Teachings.com

Aboriginal Canada Portal

Aboriginal Canada Portal - Kids - History

Aboriginal Peoples: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador today is home to four peoples of Aboriginal ancestry: the Inuit, the Innu, the Micmac and the Metis.

CBC News:  Aboriginal Canadians
Includes sections on Aboriginal History, First Peoples Facts and Figures, Land Claims and Celebrations.

Aboriginal Peoples and Archives
Much of the aboriginal perspective is based in oral traditions. Oral accounts contain spiritual concepts and other ideas foreign to European minds. Some of these have been preserved in records now held in various archives.

Native People - Canadian Youth Encyclopedia
The native people were the original inhabitants of Canada. They are thus called the Aboriginal people. They often refer to themselves as the First Nations. 

Aboriginal Art, Culture and Traditions at the Virtual Museum of Canada
Discover the Aboriginal people, and learn about Aboriginal art, as well as important traditions and culture at the Virtual Museum of Canada. Fascinating museum exhibits and an assortment of images await you at the VMC!

Tipatshimuna:  Innu Stories from the Land
Discover the heritage of the Innu [ formerly known as Montagnais and Naskapi].  The exhibit features narratives about life on the land from the perspectives of Elders and of youth, a multimedia gallery space, and an online catalogue of Innu objects found in several Canadian institutions.

Our World - Our Way of Life: Inuit and Haida

The Inuit and Haida people have ancient and rich cultures, history and heritage which are shared on the Our World - Our Way of Life website. Exhibits from the Haida Nation of Haida Gwaii and the Inuit of Nunavut include carvings, war canoes, oral histories and ancient stories. Learn about the original occupants of the Queen Charlotte Islands and Canada's Arctic regions by visiting the distinct Haida, Innu and Inuit cultures featured on the Our World - Our Way of Life website.


Older Resource Collections organized by category:

Maps  |  Economic Activity | SpiritualityMigration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Maps  (Present day, the arrival of Europeans, pre-history, etc.)

Nations of Quebec Map - Indian and Inuit
A good graphic overview of Nations in Quebec today.  Includes links to populations.

Historic Treaty Information Site
Includes timelines and maps of treaty-negotiated lands and distribution of native peoples.  Also contains a timeline of treaty events and galleries of images associated with each treaty. (Indian and Northern Affairs)

First Nations - Maps - University of BC
Various links to maps presenting several ways of viewing the Native presence in Canada and North America.  Includes maps by language and by treaty.

First Nations of the New France Era
Canadian Museum of Civilization's way charting of the presence of various First Peoples at the time of contact with Europeans.  Linguistic divisions combined with different geography, different ways of living.

Canada's First Nations - Different approaches to pre-contact history
"Three different approaches to pre-contact Native history are used to convey the richness of Native lifeways. Three separate maps will divide Canada into sections based upon region, culture, and language. Links on each map will connect to a specific discussion."

Indigenous languages of the Americas
Wikipedia's entry on language families that existed before European contact also contains an excellent map of "Pre-contact distribution of North American language families north of Mexico" in high resolution suited for projection.   University of Texas libraries also published two "Early Indian" maps for EAST and for WEST  "linguistic stocks"

Journey to a new land (Bilingual)
Virtual Museum of Canada site discussing possible routes and time frames.  Includes interactive games, simulations, illustrations, etc.  Also arranged by level.  Interactive timeline also maps archaeological sites in relation to ice ages.

Archeological evidence interactive map
This map from the  Nova site on America's Stone Age Explorers details some sites during the different ice ages.   The non-Interactive map details what was found at each site.

Pre-contact housing types
Map that "shows distributions of housing types in the pre-contact eras. The ranges of types were hypothesized by anthros based on archaeological sites, ethnographic data (both visual observations of housing and explanations by Native people."  An interesting approach, this site describes several of the housing types throughout America, in part as a "corrective" to certain teaching practices.  (Read explanation below the images of houses.)

  Pre-contact cultural map
"This map shows culture areas of more than 500 tribes of North America before first contact."  Some of the links on this page are broken.
Physiographic Regions and other approaches
To see cultural regions approach above compared to linguistic and physiographic regional view, see this 3 approaches to Native Civilizations page.
Several other physiological and climatic maps used on this page as well could also be used in approaches that consider environmental influences on First Peoples.   Oceans, lakes, and of course major waterways in North America also played a role worth examining through maps.  For Haida, First Nations People on B.C.'s Coast prior to European contact were affected the way they travelled, ate, and viewed the world.

Different political systems, associations between tribes, etc.
Tribal control over territory changed drastically after European contact.

Maps  |  Economic Activity | SpiritualityMigration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Economic Activities & Connections to the Environment

Gateway to Aboriginal Heritage  (Français ici)
"Explore a selection of material drawn from the Museum's artifact and archival collections. Historical and contemporary objects, images, and documents vividly express the cultural diversity as well as the creativity, resourcefulness, and endurance of this country's First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples."  

An Ancient Bond with the Land
This Civilization.ca overview "explores the role of whaling, fishing, communal hunting, farming and trading in supporting Aboriginal societies across the northern half of North America." Includes large pictures of objects, clothing and methods used in the different ways the First People's interacted with their environment.

Cross Currents:  500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing in Atlantic Canada
Tracing the history of fishing in Canada.  (Archived site at CMC.  Used to contain image and maps, including ancient ways and modern examples of the way Mi'kmaq, Mailiseet and Innu "harvest of all marine and freshwater resources."  Maps links there may or may not work.)

Iroquois Economics (from spiritus-temporis.com)
"The Iroquois developed a system of economics very different from the now dominant western variety. This system consisted of several unique components including land ownership, the division of labor, and trade."

Economy of the Iroquois - Wikipedia overview
"The economy of the Iroquois originally focused on communal production and combined elements of both horticulture and hunter-gatherer systems."  This Wikipedia page discusses economic patterns and the society that evolved around them.

A guide to the three sisters (N.Y. Museum)
"Corn, beans and squash, The Three Sisters, were the principal crops of the Iroquois and other Native American groups in the northeastern United States [and Canada!], at the time Europeans arrived here about 1600. By this time, the Iroquois had been planting these three crops together for about 300 years."   This site shows an artist's and museum curator's view of the farming scene of this agricultural people.  

Subarctic Native Peoples:  Traditional cultures and "cultural change"

Canadian Encyclopedia articles describing the hunting cultures of the various sub-arctic tribes.  Useful in the way it concisely shows the change that occurred as Europeans altered traditional economic patterns.

A History of Native People of Canada (Civilization.ca)
Mentioned in the origins section because of its very complete study of First Peoples' origins from before 10000BC until the time of the pre-European First Nations., this site also contains a number drawings which illustrate the economic activities of various groups throughout North America.

Maps  |  Economic Activity | Spirituality Migration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Spirituality, stories and world-views 

(See also Oral Traditions section below )

Four Directions Teaching
Interactive interface that provides an excellent survey of oral histories along with activity suggestions for teachers.  Listen to creation stories and other teachings for five Native peoples on the site:  Mikmaq, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Cree, Blackfoot.

Religions in Canada:  Native Spirituality
An unexpected source (National Defense department) but could be used as a useful overview of Native spiritual traditions.  Emphasis is on Native spirituality being practiced now, as is evident by the one-sentence summary of the Inuit as mainly Christian. 

Seeking Native American Spirituality: Read This First!
A few casual warnings about looking for information about Native Spirituality online.  Includes a bibliography of recommended books and a few links to other web sites.

Endangered Stones
Various perspectives on the use for rock formations in the form of Medicine Wheels.  Useful for understanding variety of interpretations and to point students to the way different non-Native groups have interpreted the formations on their own terms.

Creation Story by Natoway (Brian Rice)
A detailed reading of the creation story from a Mohawk perspective.  Originally published on the Akwesasne history site called The Wampum Chronicles

Origin Stories on Civilization.ca
"In the stories told by different Aboriginal peoples across Canada, Sky Woman, Glooscap, Sedna, Nanabush or Raven create the world, or change it into the world known to human beings."

First People: The Legends
A large collection of legends of various First Peoples, including many in what is now Canadian territory.  Includes pictures, banners, and other texts and tools for class projects.

Sacred Symbols and Their Meanings
Several summary descriptions on this section of Shannon Thunderbirds site which describe Native views of the Earth, the importance of the Circle of Life, as well as First People's use and relationship to animals

Death and the Tree of Life
"What is the native American's view of death? Tribal traditions about the matter vary in expression but are not at variance one with another on fundamentals...."


Maps  |  Economic Activity | Spirituality Migration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Migratory movements and theories about origins

New:  Origin Myths and Migration Theory
An interesting perspective on how all migration theories are rooted in a perception of the world.   Suggests a better approach, where "archaeologists .. build on the knowledge of the Ute, Pueblo, Navajo and Apache people striving to incorporate the insights and understanding of their descendents into .. theories and interpretations of their ancestors. If we can combine this deep, rich source of knowledge with the empirical data from the field and lab our theories will be much better and our insight vastly improved."

New:  Did First Americans Arrive By Land and Sea? (National Geographic)

A History of Native People of Canada  (Civilization.ca)
A very complete study of First Peoples' origins from before 10000BC until the time of the pre-European First Nations.  Contains a number of maps and drawings, which illustrate territorial occupation, but also the economic activities of various groups throughout North America.

Peopling North America: Population Movements and Migration
"An historical overview of migratory movements, this tutorial focuses on diasporas to and within Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Population movements have been occurring for tens of thousands of years and continue to the present day. We shall examine the demographic, economic, cultural, and political nature of major movements, as well as consider their growth and development, their regional and global causes, and their impact."   This site will used in up-and-coming LEARN LES on Population and Settlement for Cycle 2 Course as well.

Diversity section of the First Peoples portrait on Canadian Geographic site.  An interact series of maps and animations.  Simple but clear illustrating traditional migration routes.

Canadian Museum of Civilization: Our origins:  Beringia [and other ice-age connections]
"The early history of First Peoples in Canada begins with the fact of this glacial ice, and its subsequent melting."  This Civilization.ca overview covers various aspects of the Bering Strait theory and the emergence of ice-age peoples who inhabited North America thousands of years ago.  Ostensibly written from a Native perspective.  Includes some maps and other visuals.  Don't miss their small collection of resources which in turn lead to other larger link collections!  

Canada's First People - Premium Edition
This textbook, published by Northern Blue Publishing, is now available online.  For the moment these resources are not free, but school boards considering licensing these books/sites for class use would find summaries of the main Bering Strait theory presented along with photos of archaeological digs.

Paleoindians and the Great Pleistocene Die-Off
Though chiefly concerned with theories as to how certain animal species died off around 10000 years ago, the first pages provides a nice overview of the basic theory of the Beringia crossing.

Animations showing the Beringia Land Bridge changing over timeare available here and here.
There is also an animation of the flooding of land bridge here.

Charles P. Allen High School:  History 11 Notes
Unit one on this school's course presents a brief overview of "Theories regarding the First Peoples' origins" that is refreshing in its simple presentation.  The materials on this site are copyrighted and not for use or distribution without permission.

Bering Strait Theory:  Native American Languages Site
This article linked to here begins, "Why do American Indians get so mad when you say their ancestors migrated across the Bering land bridge from Asia?"  It presents a Native perspective on the theory that basically accepts the notion of migration as long as it is NOT used to claim that Natives immigrants and are not native to North America.  There are a few useful links at the bottom of this article.

Journey to a new land (Bilingual)
Virtual Museum of Canada site discussing possible routes and time frames.  Includes interactive games, simulations, illustrations, etc.  Also arranged by level.  Interactive timeline also shows archaeological sites in relation to ice ages.

Models of migration to the New World
Suffice to say there are many models of how First Peoples first arrived in North America.  Wikipedia provides an overview here.

Getting to the New World article on waves of migration

Clovis People   "The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Native American culture that first appears in the archaeological record of North America around 13,500 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. The culture is named for artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico, where the first evidence of this tool complex was excavated in 1932. Earlier evidence included a mammoth skeleton with a spear-point in its ribs, found by a cowboy in 1926 near Folsom, New Mexico. Clovis sites have since been identified throughout all of the contiguous United States, as well as Mexico and Central America."   Though this article provides a useful summary, one should follow the original source at National Geographic News here.  See also the Wikipedia entry for a more detailed account of the Clovis people, with several links at the bottom of the page, including Nova's America's Stone Age Explorers which includes interactive materials. 

Ancient America: The Clovis - Solutrean connection  In this article, Peter Marsh writes about Polynesians and their migration routes, but on page 9 of his online essay he collects together a few of the arguments (archaeological and linguistic) for European migration to the Americas from France or Spain.  (Note that the Solutrean connections have been disproved through genetic analysis showing that the main mtDNA haplogroups! were part of a single founding population.   See Solutrean Hypothesis at Wikipedia and also Getting to the New World article on waves of migration)

First Americans may have crossed Atlantic 50,000 years ago Christian Science Monitor article summarizing some of the findings in South Carolina and elsewhere in the Americas which point to pre-clovis peoples migrating across the Atlantic.  See also New Evidence Puts Man In North America 50,000 Years Ago http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041118104010.htm  and  http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-11-17-earlyman-sc-usat_x.htm both of which require this article that explains why Clovis people then disappeared:  Comet May Have Exploded Over Canada 12,900 Years Ago After All http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918111320.htm

National Geographic Issue:  Peopling the Americas: Who were the  First Americans
The online version of the article focuses on controversial archaeological digs which are changing the way we are thinking of how First Peoples arrived in the Americas.  If for anything, a very interesting use of this site is to access a high definition map illustrating the two principal theories.  The map is, in PDF format, is located here.

First Canadians
For a fictional account of how people might have been swept by ice flows and currents to the Americas during the ice-age and before Beringia was accessible, consider showing this "documentary" produced by Telefilm.  It aired on National Geographic channel and can occasionally be found referred to online. Science or pseudo-science?  You be the judge.

First Americans were Australians
Based on tests done on skulls found in South America, "The first Americans were descended from Australian aborigines, according to evidence in a new BBC documentary.... which suggests that the Americas have been home to a greater diversity of humans than previously thought - and for much longer."

Journey of Mankind: Peopling of the World
The direct link (above) to this fascinating animation is actually taken from the Bradshawfoundation.com page at http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/stephenoppenheimer/.   While the animation traces only the land bridge routes to North America, it does, simply by its over-encompassing nature,  provide students with a look at human migration theory that leaves no one human culture at the center of importance.   It presents, instead,  a virtual global journey of modern man over the last 160,000 years."  It also shows "for the first time the interaction of migration and climate over this period."  

Maps  |  Economic Activity | Spirituality Migration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Oral Traditions (The nature of storytelling and samples)

Four Directions Teaching
Interactive interface that provides an excellent survey of oral histories along with activity suggestions for teachers.  Listen to creation stories and other teachings for five Native peoples on the site:  Mikmaq, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Cree, Blackfoot.

Working Together- Native American Oral Traditions
"The purpose of this position paper is to present ideas to the Arizona Archaeological Council membership on the appropriate use of oral traditions in archaeological research. It provides a basis for continuing a dialogue between Native Americans and archaeologists about how and why archaeology   is conducted in Arizona."   Though not specifically about Canadian First Peoples, this article brings up a variety of issues that come into play when Oral History is considered while studying North American native societies through archaeology.

Dene/Cree ElderSpeak: Tales from the Heart and Spirit
Collection of stories by Cree and Dene elders. 

Aboriginal Cultures and Traditions at the Aboriginal Youth Network
The Aboriginal Cultures and Traditions Storytelling web site collects stories on the importance of storytelling (!)...  " from the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples of this country. Collectively identified by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as "Aboriginal," each group self-identifies as separate peoples with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs."  (Note:  Site was underconstruction in early 2009.  Structure and resources may change once site is activated anew.

Storytelling: The art of knowledge
On overview of various Canadian First Peoples and their use of storytelling.  A few sample stories as they were told by respected elders.

Maps  |  Economic Activity | Spirituality Migration and Origins  |   Oral Traditions  |  Societal/Political Organization

Societal and Political Organization

Cultures in America:  Social Life
An overview of kinship and political structures in Native societies in North America.  Emphasis on the different societal structures.

Northeastern Woodlands Iroquois - "The Iroquois were the region's most powerful confederacy, uniting the Cayugas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Senecas. The Iroquois called themselves Haudensaunee, "people of the longhouse." They lived in elongated elm-bark structures, twenty-five feet wide and less than 100 feet long with some extending to 200 feet. Three to six families or hearths from the same maternal lineage lived in one dwelling. Marriage was a contract between two groups of kin, rather than a contract between individuals. Parents as well as elder relatives influenced the selection of marriage partners. However, the compatibility of the prospective couple remained important since newly weds were incorporated into established longhouses. Noncompatible couples were permitted to divorce."  (Source and for information:  Answers.com Indian Social Life)

Iroquois Social Life - "Social structure was based on matrilineal principles. The basic unit was the matrilineage, consisting of the descendants, through females, of a single woman. Female members lived together with their husbands (who belonged to other matrilineages) in a single longhouse; a village would contain anything from a few small longhouses to as many as 50. Several matrilineages formed the matrilineal clan which, besides being of symbolic and ceremonial importance, served to regulate marriage patterns. Marriage was forbidden between members of a clan."  (Source:  Canadian Encyclopedia here and see also here.)

Traditional Iroquois Kinship Patterns...
The section on Kinship Patterns from this Saskachewan grade 8 culture unit handout collection describes the Iroquois's matrilineal society and includes a schematic drawing of the Iroquois societal structure.

Leadership and Government in Iroquois Society
A strategy for teaching Iroquois social and political structure by concentrating on differences and participatory responsibilities of the various nations that belonged to the Iroquois Confederacy.

The Iroquois Longhouse in the Mohawk villages
New York State Museum site on A Mohawk Iroquois Village provides pictures and even descriptions from early Europeans who first visited the Iroquois lands.
For some online activities and pictures the Royal Ontario Museum also provides their site on the Iroquois Longhouse.

Algonquians - "Prior to European intervention, the largest political unit among most Woodland Algonquians appears to have been the band-village, there being no confederacies of village chiefs. Each BAND or band-village appears to have possessed at least one chief or headman, whose position was usually hereditary within the male line. Patrilineal groups designated by an animal totem seem to have been characteristic of all peoples."  (Source:  Canadian Encyclopedia)

"The Algonquin social structure was patriarchal; men were the leaders and the heads of the family and territorial hunting rights were passed from father to son."  (Source:  CQSB site on Algonquians)

"Like most Algonquin speaking peoples, traditional Algonquin bands consisted of a network of family groups bound by the ties of descent (blood) and affinity (marriage and adoption). Bands where based on patrilineal extended families that included parents, children as well as grandparents, single adult and their children, newly married couples without children, widows and orphans. While Algonquin social structure was based on descent through the male line, kinship ties to both father's and mother's family were recognized, thus providing the widest network of relations to draw upon."  (Source:  Ardoch Algonquin First Nation)

Inuit Social Organization   and others.
Short summary describing Inuit society and rules of kinship.  Part of larger Saskatchewan Grade 10 teaching unit.
See also section on Cree Family Life  and various others in the Key Resources section.

Sections which are under-construction

Cultural References

Representations of plants and animals

Representations of death

Representations of the earth

(Under construction)


(Under construction)

Aztecs of Mexico

Haida of Canada
• The potlatch
• The totem pole

• Dugout canoes

Maori of New Zealand
• Rangi and Papa
• The tapu (tabou)
• The mountains of Tongariro National Park

Related Offsite Learning Approaches

Four Directions Teaching
Interactive interface that provides an excellent survey of oral histories along with activity suggestions for teachers.   The activity suggestions are sometimes in a different section.  You may need to tour non-flash areas of the site.

Battle for Aboriginal Treaty Rights - CBC Archives
"In these activities, students have the opportunity to write a handbook outlining how to prepare a peaceful protest or profiling a well-know protest, write monologues, comic strips, or rap songs to present opposing views of events at Ipperwash, create and vote in a class plebiscite on an issue of their choice, identifying characteristics of majority and minority interests, examine and debate the issue of Aboriginal fishing rights and set up a classroom court to find a resolution, and prepare a software presentation detailing the extent to which the Canadian government should be open to Aboriginal land claims."

Leadership and Government in Iroquois Society
A strategy for teaching Iroquois social and political structure by concentrating on differences and participatory responsibilities of the various nations that belonged to the Iroquois Confederacy.

The History Canada Game
(Not tested yet, but interesting approach we couldn't resist adding here right away.)
HistoriCanada is a mod pack for Civ3 Conquest v1.22 and Civ3 Complete that is based on the History of Canada. It is intended as a playable fun addition to the Civilization game with a wealth of custom Canadian content. It’s very much a game of ‘What if ...?”;  where players can toy with outcomes, now etched in history, but once hanging in the balance. It explores the parameters of history rather than the events, and allows players to live questions like … ”What if the Huron had displaced the 5 Nations Confederacy rather than the other way around?”; or “What if the French had retained Canada, and the English colonies to the East and South had failed to prosper?”