I just returned from a Gathering for Aboriginal youth up at the Bark Lake Leadership Camp. It was great connecting with our future leaders and so amazing to see their passion for the culture.
In this post I wanted to draw some attention to the conversation of political correctness. After doing hundreds of workshops and transcribing way too many evaluations I found that most people found the personal narrative, history from an Indigenous lens and confusion about what term to use for Indigenous people common themes.
In the past when covering terminology and or terms of reference I have found and seen a lot of confusing faces. I have always said the most politically correct way to refer to our nations and or people is in their respective languages.
I am truly “Anishinaabe” which is Ojibway and part of the Algonquin/Algonkian group according to a lot of textbooks. Growing up in Toronto I remember being asked in grade school what I was and back then I responded with, “Indian.” The terms as we know has changed over the years from Indian to First Peoples, Native Canadian, First Nations to Aboriginal and lately within our Ontario Local District School Boards our children are now being referred to as an acronym, “FNMI.”
Canada currently recognizes three distinct groups Aboriginal, First Nations, Métis and Inuit. In the first few pages of Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, he mentions that Indigenous people have never been a collective such as the word Aboriginal that for some reason collectively unites us as Indigenous people under one noun.
I as an Anishinaabe person understand that we are very diverse and distinct Nations of people who deserve acknowledgement and respect for our own cultures. Most Indigenous nations across Turtle Island (North America) understand this very specific notion but as we know there is this polarizing need for non-Indigenous people to locate us to one noun for the convenience of the conversation. We have to take a cue from places like New Zealand where the general public learns and understands the Indigenous language throughout the national curricula. In New Zealand Indigenous students have access to learn their own language within the education system. We are generations behind this thinking in Canada even though there has been tremendous dedication and work done thus far. As the saying goes we still have a long way to go.
That being said I consider words like Aboriginal, First Nations access points to the conversation of who we are essentially mainly because those are the most commonly known words amongst Canadian Citizens. A lot of people are drawn to First Nations being the politically correct term but when you are referring to someone who is Métis, Inuit and or non-status they do not identify with the collective noun of First Nations.
This topic is definitely something I cannot possibly cover in one blog submission due to its very complex layers and history that is attached to each term and or collective noun. It is something for your to think over and maybe engage in your own research. My suggestions are to understand the landscape meaning knowing what specific nations territory you are in; for instance I live in Mississauga, Ontario so therefore I am in the territory of the Mississauga’s of the Credit or now more commonly known as the Mississauga’s of the New Credit. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada has webpages dedicated to terms of reference and or terminology. Happy searching!
Eddy Robinson M.Ed