Starting with the First Nations and Inuit way of life, the readings focus on the overall history of the Indigenous people in Canada. They explore their lands before the colonials, identifying their cultures, environment, and way of life before delving deeply into their interactions with the colonials. Stories of their encounters with the French and British colonialists are presented with related wars and treaties and the more common references, such as the Indian Act. The readings also explore the indigenous people’s struggles towards self-determinism, often founded on their strong beliefs on differences between them and the rest of the world, especially in their way of life. The readings also discuss the wars and the federal constitution making, recognizing the place of the Indigenous people. Throughout the readings, my main focus is on the way of life of the First Nations and the Inuit.
The resilience of the Inuit people is some learning for me. It leaves anyone who goes through the readings with a sense of admiration for this group of people who have withered to live in the lands of their ancestors. For many, it is the only place they know of. Everything about the Inuit is about defying the odds. Their life in the Arctic is like a movie, yet they have lived and adapted to living in this region quite well. Well, imagine living in an environment where the temperature is negative 30 degrees. To anyone, it is humanly impossible. Yet, these are the very conditions they have lived in since early times. Their parents lived in the same, and so did their grandparents and great-grandparents. Learning about the Inuit, several things come to the fore; the environment, the topography, the foods, body adaptations, cultural practices, and way of life.
Many people today believe that without farming, people would die. After reading about the Inuit and how they live, I have a contrary opinion. Consider this; in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, where the Inuit have lived for thousands of years, no trees grow. Yes, they have no single tree to talk about. Well, that means they have no plants or vegetation. What they encounter are shrubs that grow here and there. This is a funny scenario, especially because everyone has been accustomed to believing that trees are life. This means that without trees, there would be no life. So what about the Arctic Inuit people and how they have lived all these years? It is interesting to think about this, especially in terms of where the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurs, thus replenishing the air. I do not wholly use the Inuit to castigate the whole debate about environmental preservation. It is just an eye-opener for everyone to question every statistical data and scientific research we have today. If people could live in a place without trees, the global debate about the environment should be re-evaluated.
Before wandering off to issues of oxygen and its regeneration, let us also spare a thought to how these people find a balanced diet. Given that no trees or crops can survive in these areas, they definitely do not have access to plant diets. This is not just in the present, but for the thousands of years the Inuit have been living predominantly in the Arctic. Their core sustainability activities were, and continue to be, hunting and fishing. They are fishermen who use boats made from local and improvised materials. They also have tools they use for hunting. Hence, meat and fish are their primary diet. They consume these all year round without having to change their diet from these protein-rich foods. Perhaps one would think that they have special additives to the protein diets that help them acquire the missing nutrients. This, too, is far-fetched. The reason is that most of their fish and meat meals are eaten raw. This is because lighting a fire to cook all the time is challenging in these conditions.
In rare moments, history often meets with science. To this end, it has yet to be discovered from what point in history the bodies of the Inuit evolved to adapt to the environment. They have adaptations in their bodies that help them preserve heat that insulates them against very low temperatures in the Arctic region. According to the readings, the Inuit have developed an adaptation that converts the heavy proteins and fats they intake from meat and fish into heat insulation layers.
The communal way of living that was and continues to be practiced by the Inuit is one of the greatest forms of adaptation they have. Living in bands of families, they depend on every abled person to go out and look for food. When one gets food, they bring it back to the small bands made of several families, and they all share. They also took care of children from families where their parents were missing. This, too, covers the weak until they are able to regain health. However, they shun laziness or frail bodies that depend on rest. These ones are banished from the community to die away from the rest. This is the true form of survival. It is a do-or-die situation for them.
Based on the analysis of the course readings, one key concept that features prominently is the environment. To understand the environment, it is important to understand the people that live in it. One fact I gather from the onset is that environments change extremely slowly or do not change at all. What should be changing are the humans who live in it. Humans have three aspects they can change to enable them to survive in the environment. The first one is how they adapt to the environment. People’s way of living, dressing, building houses, eating, walking, and moving are all affected by the environment they find themselves in. This was true for the First Nations in the readings as it was true for the Inuit. They all had to find ways to sustain their communities. They pursued cultural practices and daily living that teach and emphasize how people should live in their environmental conditions while taking advantage of what nature provides.
The readings have emboldened my belief in the evolution theory. I strongly believe that the lives of the First Nations and the Inuit in Canada’s hinterland are practical examples of people who have truly adapted. In the evolution theory, the main contention is that survival is for the fittest. I believe that this is well exposed through the well-designed hunting strategies seen across the First Nations and the Inuit. It is also the case for work, where those who are unable to work are banished from the community. The evolution theory by Darwin has, for a long time, only been recorded in science. How about enriching science with history discussions and the lives of people in different terrains? This is my assignment; to continue to uncover the connections between human adaptation and evolution, especially based on the principles espoused in the Darwinian Theory.
Based on the above, my biggest takeaway from this reading is about something other than the self-governance structures that were formed through treaties or colonial arrangements of administration over the lands. My takeaway is on the lives and practices of the ordinary people of the First Nations and the Inuit. Only this perspective can help people understand why there was resistance, treaties, land struggles, and, in many cases, why the First Nations have loved an undisturbed life in the hinterland. It takes time to come to an understanding, such as what I have come to, that the efforts of civilizing the First Nations and the Inuit, such as forcing them into an education system through boarding institutions, were not directly applicable to the daily living challenges they would go back to and which their environment demanded.
My biggest advice for anyone taking this course is that they should widen their mind before delving into it. The preparatory readings should go as far as reading the creation stories and Darwin’s theory of evolution and buttressing it with current issues, such as land struggles and environmental protection. This will not only bridge the past and the present but also help them connect more with what they read to expand their mind in understanding the course. A reading of this nature must also engage some films about life in hard conditions. These films will help them visualize and relate to the course readings to better understand what it is all about.
Looking at the presented discussion, it is critical to understand that the Indigenous people were only seeking to be respected and to be allowed to live the way the almighty God had designed their environment and settings. This is still the struggle seen today. This means the reasons are not simply historical records but living records that try to give credence to the issues that the First Nations and the Inuit continue to struggle with in their interactions with the federal government, even amidst some forms of self-determination through structures such as the Nunavut government structures.
Flanagan Thomas. 2008. First Nations? Second Thoughts. 2nd ed. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Fontaine Theodore. 2010. Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir. Surrey B.C: Heritage House.
Pino Rodolfo. 2010. Seeking Indigenous Autonomy Inuit and Miskito-Nani Peoples (version 1. Auflage) 1. Auflage ed. Saarbrücken: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing. https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:101:1-2018101705340617797420.
Timpson Annis May. 2009. First Nations First Thoughts: The Impact of Indigenous Thought in Canada. Vancouver BC: UBC Press.
Vowel Chelsea. 2016. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. Winnipeg MB Canada: HighWater Press. http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/101/200/300/portage_main_press/chelsea_vowel/indigenous/index.html.