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Aboriginal Cultural Groups. Pre-Contact. There are six main cultural groups in Canada: 1) Arctic 2) Sub Arctic 3) Northwest Coast 4) Plateau 5) Plains 6) Eastern Woodlands. Aboriginal Culture Groups. Arctic.

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Aboriginal culture groups

Aboriginal Culture Groups


  • Early inhabitation dating back 20,000 years, may have crossed on the Bering Land Bridge.

  • Long daylight hours, moderate temperatures in summer. Long, cold winters often spent in near total darkness.

  • Total absence of trees, some low stubby plants and berries, mostly dry, barren areas with rocky outcrops.

Picture: http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/northamerica/after1500/history/inuit.htm


  • Inhabited by Inuit peoples (descendants of Thule culture 1000CE).

  • Eskimo Aleut (Inuktitut) language group.

  • Organized in regional bands consisting of 500-1,000.

  • Marriage was nearly universal and occurred in early adulthood.

  • Economy based on sea-mammal hunting – particular seal.

  • Technology includes bone, horn, antler, ivory, stone, animal skins, baleen for basketry.

  • Inuit inventions considered “technological masterpieces” given available materials.

  • Significant ceremonies beginning at birth (naming, betrothal, marriage) as well as rights of passage (demonstrations of skill such as sewing or hunting) celebrated at summer gatherings.



Picture: ewesfn.weebly.com

Picture: ageandanniesramblings.co.uk

Picture: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Picture: northwestpassage2011.blogspot.com

Sub arctic
Sub Arctic

  • Area is 5 million km2, ¾ of which is on the Canadian Shield.

  • Extremes of temperature: -40C in winter to +30C in summer.

  • Dene, Carrier and Cree peoples as well as Inland Tlingit.

  • Algonquin (East) and Athapaskan (West) language groups

Picture: canadiangeographic.ca

Sub arctic1

  • Most sparsely populated region of Canada, estimates as low as 60,000 across the entire region

  • No formal chief system prior to European contact

  • Kinship ties differed over the region

  • Few material possessions due to need to follow food supply

  • Myths & legends centred on animals that could take human form

Sub Arctic

Sub arctic2

Picture: ecokids.ca as 60,000 across the entire region

Sub Arctic

Picture: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Picture: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Northwest coast
Northwest Coast as 60,000 across the entire region

  • Continuously inhabited for 10,000+ years.

  • Narrow section of coastal land stretching from Northern Washington to Northern BC and into Alaska.

  • Moderate temperatures allowed for fishing & hunting all year.

  • Home to Haida, Tsimshian, Nuu-chahnulth, Tlingit, and Salishan peoples.

  • As many at 70 distinct nations inhabit the region.

Picture: turtleisla.org

Northwest coast1
Northwest Coast as 60,000 across the entire region

  • Food was varied and abundant allowing for large, permanent settlements.

  • Towering red cedars yielded rot-resistant beams and framing for their fine homes, logs for their 22-metre-long canoes, and rain-resistant bark for clothing and blankets.

  • Renowned carvers of totems, masks, bowls, and helmets, they revered shamans for their links to the spirit world.

  • The potlatch, a communal ritual of feasting, storytelling, dancing, and gift-giving, was all important.

Northwest coast2
Northwest Coast as 60,000 across the entire region

Picture: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Picture: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Picture: news.pcc.edu


  • They had great diversity of dress, religious beliefs, and language

  • Three main language groups: Athapaskan, Salishian and Ktunaxa.

  • Fishing and foraging were mainstays of bands living in this region.



  • Most years ago, as the glaciers retreated northwards.wintered in semi-underground dwellings they entered through the roof; in summer they built bulrush-covered wooden lodges.

  • The Columbia and Fraser rivers were their travel and trade routes and source of fish. Other foods were berries, wild vegetables and game.

  • Fashioned canoes from the area’s pine and cottonwood, and traded copper, jadeite, and herbs to the coast Indians for otter pelts, oolichan oil and decorative baskets.


Picture: wellpinit.wednet.edu

Plateau years ago, as the glaciers retreated northwards.

All Pictures: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Plains years ago, as the glaciers retreated northwards.

  • Region stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the woodlands of Southern Manitoba in Canada, but as far south as Mississippiin the US.

  • Encompasses the nomadic Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Gros Ventre, Sioux and Plains Cree.

  • Athapascan, Algonquin and Siouan speakers.

  • Hollywood “Indians”

Picture: en.wikipedia.org


  • Buffalo culture: other than water and poles for their tipis, the buffalo met all their needs.

  • Its meat was eaten at every meal.

  • Hooves were boiled into glue; sinew became thread; stomachs served as pots; horns and bones were fashioned into tools and utensils; ribs became sled runners; hides made tipi covers, clothing, moccasins, and sleeping robes; buffalo hair made comfy cradle boards.

  • Buffalo were hunted by herding them into enclosures or over cliffs until arrival of horses in the early 1700s.

  • The Plains women played important roles in religious rituals.


Picture: britannica.com


Pictures: firstpeoplesofcanada.com the buffalo met all their needs.


Pictures: firstpeoplesofcanada.com

Eastern woodlands

  • Part the buffalo met all their needs. of a larger region stretching from the Maritimes along the St. Lawrence basin and to Illinois and South Carolina in the South and East.

  • Two unrelated language groups – Algonquin and Iroquoian.

  • Algonquian occupied land from Lake Superior to the Atlantic.

  • The lived in villages

    south of the Great Lakes

    and the St. Lawrence.

Eastern Woodlands

Picture: uppercanadahistory.ca

Eastern woodlands1
Eastern Woodlands the buffalo met all their needs.

  • Iroquoian speakers:

    • Warring tradition.

    • Men hunted and fished

    • Women cultivated beans, maize, squash, and tobacco.

    • When the soil was depleted in one place, they moved to new sites.

  • Algonquian speakers:

    • Lives were governed by the seasons

    • Hunting in fall and winter; harvesting roots and berries in summer.

  • Shamanistic societies in both.

Eastern woodlands2
Eastern Woodlands the buffalo met all their needs.

Pictures: colonialwilliamsburg.photoshelter.com

Pictures: firstpeoplesofcanada.com