University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural, and Epidemiological Perspectives
The Canadian native aboriginals are the original indigenous settlers of North Canada in Canada. They are made up of the Inuit, Metis and the First nation. Through archeological evidence old crow flats seem to the earliest known settlement sites for the aboriginals. Other archeological evidence reveals the following characteristics of the Aboriginal culture: ceremonial architecture, permanent settlement, agriculture and complex social hierarchy. A number of treaties and laws have been enacted amongst the First nation and European immigrants throughout Canada. For instance the Aboriginal self-government right was a step to assimilate them in Canadian society. This allows for a chance to manage cultural, historical, economic, political and healthcare of the indigenous people communitiesCITATION Asc11 p 21 l 1033 ( Asch 21).
The aboriginal people of Canada make up 4.3 percent of the total country population. This population is evenly spread amongst recognized 700 first nation bands that have divergent language and culture. The aboriginal population plays a great role in upholding Canada’s cultural heritage.
History of Assimilation
The history of assimilation of the Canadian Aboriginals trace back to the 18th century when Canada was still under the French rule. The call then was the urge to the Aboriginals to get assimilated into the Canadian culture. The attempts for assimilation climaxed in the early 20th Century that led to the eventual integration of the Aboriginals into the Canadian culture. It is believed that Canada was in violation of the human rights when they forced the aboriginals to get assimilated into a Eurocentric society. “There were instances of children being forced from homes into Christian schools. CITATION Asc11 p 22 l 1033 ( Asch 22)” This was violation of human rights.
Different laws like the Indian Act and other treaties played an outstanding role in shaping Aboriginal relationship in Canada. The Indian Act led to a huge conflict of interest following its effect on the Indians living in Canada during its implementation. The Indian Act was a mechanism that strengthened the eviction of Indians ad also a means of displacing Indians from their tribal lands. On the onset of the 19th Century, land hungry Canadian settlers clustered in the coastal south of Canada and slowly moved into the neighboring statesCITATION Ngu11 p 238 l 1033 (Nguyen 238). Since most of the tribes occupying that area were the Indians, the Canadian settlers petitioned the Canadian government to remove them as they perceived them as an obstacle to expansion towards the west. The rationale for the Indian Act was that the southeast Indian tribes had no attachment to any particular land. However, this rationale ignored the fact the Indian tribes had vast crops of corn and lived in settlements.
Those who benefited from the Indian Act are the Canadian settlers who had immense hunger for Indian land. The Canadian Settler lured the Indian tribes into signing the treaty by guaranteeing them peace and integrity within the Indian territories. They primarily assured them that their lucrative fur trade would continue without any interruption. This in return improved Canada economy as it gave Canadian settlers access to southern lams that were rich in cotton. In addition, it also boosted Canada and global economy as it accelerated the industrial revolution. Canada was able to pay back its debts to its global partners through the improved efficiencies in cotton production and transportation for the large country. In general, Canadian citizens gained through improved living conditionsCITATION Not94 p 78 l 1033 (Notzke 78).
There were many problems with the Indian Act. The treaty had many flaws and was based on indigenous foundations. Consequently, as the aboriginals lost their land, so did Canada lose its native culture? There was a substantial increase in slavery due to increased crop production and introduction of slave states occupied by aboriginals. The Act allowed the government to control most aspects of Native American life: resources, land, band administration and education. This treaty was based on the argument that Indians were stereotypes, barbaric, hostile and wandering people. The Act was a tragedy that caused thousands of aboriginals to leave behind their homes, crops and livestock and homes that had spiritual significance to them. This act spelt the end of aboriginal rights to live in Canada under their own traditional laws. The aboriginals were forced to concede and assimilate the law of Canada or leave their native lands. Forced to move out of their homelands, the aboriginals ended up in Oklahoma. Any attempts by the Indians to file for petitions turned futile as none of the courts ruled in their favor. The Government sent troops to force them out without giving them a chance to gather their belongings. The Canadian settlers tricked the Native Americans out of their land with false promises that they would live on their land in exchange for protected ownership of the remaining landCITATION Asc11 p 43 l 1033 ( Asch 43).
The forcefully introduction of the Western culture to the aboriginal people led to a cycle of physical, social and economic destruction of these people. Some of these issues include poverty and spiritual destruction as seen in modern day. The root cause of poverty amongst the Aboriginals started in as soon as they were relocated from their native land. The distribution of wealth among individuals in the world clearly shows the looming inequality with some people at the top of the income economy structure while some at the bottom. This translates into poor health, poverty, low levels of education, starvation and reduced levels of life expectancies. As soon as they left the reserves for the urban centers the aboriginal people were met with a new type of discrimination of racism that alienated them further hence condemning them to poverty levelsCITATION Fri02 p 29 l 1033 (Friesen and Friesen 29). “Statistical evidence show that half of the Aboriginal populis in Canada live below poverty”CITATION You06 p 83 l 1033 ( Young, Herring and Waldram 83). However there have been tremendous efforts by the Canadian public who have offered help to the growing Aboriginal people through initiatives that are meant to remove them from poverty
The arrival of the European settlers into Canada brought several foreign diseases that had a devastating effect on the Aboriginal people. Due the traditional society setting of the Aboriginal people healthcare was left for those who were felt to be deserving the chance the White settlers. The aboriginal medicine was way inferior to the newly developed medicine. With the growing racism in Canada the aboriginals lacked access to the requisite health that they needed. Federal and jurisdictional disputes have denied the Aboriginal people the necessary access to health care. There have been several reported incidences of infectious diseases that spread fast amongst the Aboriginal people.
The white settlement into the native’s lands resulted in the Aboriginals having a feeling of distrust and hate towards the white settlers. The white settlers on the other hand treated the Aboriginals with some kind of distrust and loathe and hence could not trust them with job opportunities. This resulted in an increased rate of unemployment amongst the Aboriginals. The increasing case of poor health was also contributory to the unemployment levels of Aboriginals. “From a 2001 Canadian statistic record, it revealed that the chances of Aboriginal youth getting employment opportunities was twice low in comparison to other Canadian youths”CITATION You06 p 173 l 1033 ( Young, Herring and Waldram 173). This highlights the plight of the aboriginal youths as regards to availability of employment opportunities for them.
Lack of Awareness on the disease and its effects on the lives of Aboriginals are the leading causes of the high rate of disease amongst Aboriginals. As a result of this, there have been numerous large scale campaigns raising awareness on this. The Canadian government’s vision is to discuss healthcare countrywide through the media.
The lack of trust of the system and how it works is also contributory to woes the aboriginal people face. They do not trust the judicial system and the employment sector this leads to them falling as victims of the system. The distribution of wealth among individuals in the world clearly shows the looming inequality with some people at the top of the income economy structure while some at the bottomCITATION Ngu11 p 230 l 1033 (Nguyen 230). This translates into poor health, poverty, low levels of education, starvation and reduced levels of life expectancies. As soon as they left the reserves for the urban centers the aboriginal people were met with a new type of discrimination of racism that alienated them further hence condemning them to poverty levels.
It is critical for the Canadian government to step up its efforts in an endeavor of saving the aboriginal communities from extinction. Given their rich cultural background they could contribute positively to the economy in form of tourism.
Asch, Michael. Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada. UBC Press, 2011.
Young, T Kue, Ann Herring and James Burgess Waldram. Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural, and Epidemiological Perspectives. University of Toronto Press, 2006 .
Cook, Eung-Do and Darin Flynn. “Aboriginal Languages in Canada.” Contemporary Linguistic Analysis (2008): 318-333.
Friesen, Virginia and John W Friesen. Aboriginal Education in Canada: A Plea for Integration. Brush Education, 2002.
Nguyen , Mai. “Closing the Education Gap: A Case for Aboriginal Early Childhood Education in Canada, A Look at the Aboriginal Headstart Program.” CANADIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION (2011): 229-248.
Notzke, Claudia. Aboriginal Peoples and Natural Resources in Canada. Captus Press, 1994.