The First Nation's People
Table of Contents
2. Occupations - Male/Female
3. Ceremonies - Religious/Festivals
6. First Nation in Present
The Iroquois had to stay in one place because the relied on agriculture. They surrounded their villages with huge fences called pallisades made from sharpened posts.
They constructed their longhouses by first making a framework made out of evergreens. Then they covered this narrow framework with the bark of elm trees. One house was large enough to accomodate 20 families. On the inside of houses they had sleeping platforms like the Haida. Sometimes the posts were carved much like totem poles.
The Haida lived in huge cedar houses. These houses were approximately 8 meters high, 9-12 meters wide and 45 meters long. The houses were supported by large cedar poles with gigantic planks placed in the frames to make the walls and roof. As many as several hundred people could live in one of these great houses but they would all be part of an extended family. Inside the building a raised platform all around the walls made the sleeping area. The sleeping area of one family was marked by several large storage boxes. The fronts and posts were often carved to depict stories of family (or klan) or phratries and religion.
The Inuit built their selter out of what they could find in their wanderings. Sometimes they build houses out of ice like the picuture. Sometimes they just built lean toos out of whatever plant material they could find or animal skins.
Aboriginal people were social beings as they lived and gathered together in family groups . Their camps were comprised of a number of gunyas (bark huts), but the people also lived in caves or in the open air. Some camps were comprised of as few as 6 to 10 people while in others there were up to 400 people. No doubt the availability of food was a factor in the size of a camp. Each day, various members of the group would leave the camp to hunt and gather food and return to the camp to share the catch with others.
During the 1830s William Govett (surveyor), visited a camp and recorded (in Sketches of New South Wales), that the people usually settled in their camp as night fell and were engaged in a number of activities - normal family life - sharing stories about the happenings of the day, repairing weapons, singing songs and playing games etc. Govett described a young man in one gunya using double sets of strings to make diamonds, squares, circles and other shapes. He also told of an adult amusing a young child by placing a leaf on the back of his left hand, striking it with his finger causing the leaf to ascend perpendicularly to the squeals of delight from the child.
Aboriginal people lived in family groups. The Elder or Elders gunyah (hut) were situated in the center of the camp and others spanned out in circles around the central hut. However, the people often slept in the open and in caves, so it is likely that the Elder decided where he wanted to sleep with his wife or wives and everyone one else spread-out from the spot he had chosen. No doubt some people were more important than others and the most important ones camped near the Elders.
There is evidence of longstanding Aboriginal occupation in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Negrito Aboriginal people arrived in Australia some 500,000 years ago and reached the Murray around 40,000 years ago. Deep deposits of mussel shells indicate that Aboriginals have long been dependent on the River Murray. The Murray Valley provided the Aborigines with a permanent water supply; an abundance of food; ceremonial centres and raw materials for shelter, clothing, tools, weapons and transport.
The oldest Aboriginal remains known on mainland Australia were found in sand dunes near Lake Mungo in Western New South Wales, where Aboriginals occupation continued until 18,000 years ago when the waters of the lake dried up. Aboriginal names for the Murray included INDI, near its source, MILLEWA around ECHUCA, and MURRUNDI for a section of the river in South Australia.
About 1390, today's State of New York became the stronghold of five powerful Indian tribes. They were later joined by another great tribe, the Tuscaroras from the south. Eventually the Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to form the great Iroquois Nation. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation.
FestivalsThe Iroquois Indians held six big festivals each year. Each festival lasted several days. During these festivals music was made by shaking rattles and beating drums. Rattles were made from gourds and turtle shells. The festivals included the New Year Festival in the winter, the Maple Festival in spring, the Corn Planting Festival, the Strawberry Festival, the Green Corn Festival, and the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving. The festivals were held to give thanks to the good spirits for health, clothes, food, and happiness.
Women held a powerful position in the Iroquois tribe. They owned longhouses, controlled the land, and chose the chief. Children belonged to their mother's clan. When a man married, he lived with his wife's clan.
Sometimes the Indians wore corn husks masks or painted their faces to frighten away the evil spirits. The False Face Society was a group of medicine men who wore frightening masks made of wood. They were thought to posses special powers when they put on their masks.
The Haida had many feasts and ceremonies. Their religion was a part of their everyday life and was reflected in their cloths, houses and ceremonies. The most important of their ceremonies was the potlach. A potlach was called for the annoucement of a marriage, the birth of an heir, or another important event such as the cremonial naming of children.
If an family from one klan held a potlach only members of a different, matching klan, could attend. At a potlach the host was expected to give many presents to his guests, the more important the guest, the more expensive the present. A typical potlach laste four days or longer. Both guests and hosts performed dances and Shamans gave demonstrations of their abilities. Dramas about the beliefs of the host klan were performed and long speeches explaining that history were given. The Haida ceremony of life or Tattooing was performed at Potlach.
Until recently their had been no Inuit artists because they didn't have time in their life for art. The only form of art in the past had been idly carving seabirds or seals in soft stone. Inuit did decorate things that were very important like spears, harpoons or pipes. Toys for children would be carved out of bone or soft stone. Inuit clothing was often decorated with tiny dots. Masks were also important objects in their ceremonies.
The Inuit believed in a special godlike power that was contained in all of nature. They followed their priests and shamans in approaching this power in the proper way by living in harmony with nature. The shaman would lead dances performed to honour nature. At other times individuals would go alone into nature to better understand their relationship with it. They empasized lifes important occassions such as the naming of a baby at 8 days of age. They were usually named after a relative who died. If they did not live to 8days they were not morned as they had never lived.
The Aboriginals are very religious, they do not have any priests. Instead it is the oldest man in each tribe who acts the "priest" and who translates the messages he gets from the ancestors and the spiritual world and then passes the messages on to the rest of the tribe. A very important thing for the Aboriginals is the expression Dreamtime which was when everything was created; the land, the sea and all living creatures. There are numerous different stories about the Dreamtime, depending on which Aboriginal tribe you are talking about, but one thing is the same all over and that is that the Dreamtime means that all Aboriginals are offspring of the mysterious ancestors that created Earth and that they all are forever bound to them. To show that you are responsible enough to take care of the traditions of the Dreamtime, all boys must go through something called Initiation. The initiation is a kind of school which in history could be several months long and its purpose is for boys to learn about hunting and about all the land that surrounds them. The boys are taken for long walks, often outside their own territories to learn how the land looks like and when this initiation is finished, the boys have shown that they are responsible enough to pass on the traditions.
The Aboriginals also strongly believe that every little thing contains their ancestors' souls; mountains, caves, trees, stones, everything, and that is one of the reasons why the Aboriginals, or at least some today, are so in touch with the Earth.
To pass on the stories of the creation of Earth and the Dreamtime, the Aboriginals have corroborees, a kind of festival for the spirits or a ceremony where they sing and dance. The dancing is often an imitation of animals and hunting movements. They also dress and paint themselves and the music is made with drums, boomerangs and sticks clapped together and by the men playing the didgeridoos. Corroborees are also sometimes held in order for their ancestors to give them rain or luck in hunting and also to celebrate a marriage or to mourn someone's death.
Through these kinds of rituals and ceremonies the Aboriginals manage to maintain the link between past, present time and future and this is something that is of great importance for the Aboriginals, in addition to passing on their beliefs to the next generations. These traditions are not that common amongst Aboriginals in Australia today since many of them live in bigger cities and so on, but still it is important not to forget that they do exist.
The Iroquois Indians played the Sacred Bowl Game during the last day of the "Ceremonial of Midwinter" which marked the end of the year. The wooden bowl was decorated with four clan symbols - the bear, wolf, turtle, and deer. To play the game a player placed the six nuts which were colored on one side inside the bowl and hit the bowl against the ground. If five of the six pits turned up the same color, the player scored and took another turn. The first player to reach 10 points wins the game.
The Stick Game
There are two teams, one player from each team plays at a time. Since this game requires concentration, the teams try to distract each other with songs and dances.
The stick game is played with a beautiful set of 40-60 five inch carved sticks. All but one of the sticks has a pattern painted on them. Like a deck of cards, there are four groups of sticks with the same pattern painted on them. The blank stick is called djil, or bait.
Player One grabs two handfuls of sticks and shuffles them under a cedar bark mat.
Player Two watches his opponent carefully and selects the hand he thinks the djil is in.
Player One dramatically throws the sticks on the mat to see if the blank stick is there. If the blank stick is there, Player Two gets the bundle of sticks.
If the blank stick is not selected, Player One wins nothing.
Each player gets a turn until one of the players loses all of his sticks. Sometimes gamblers will lose many of their personal possessions in the game.
The dice game gu' tgi q!a' atagan (they throw it to each other) is a Haida gambling game, mainly played by women. The game is usually played in the smokehouse. The winner smears the loser's face with soot.
1. Player One holds the die by the thin side and throws it onto a mat.
2. If it lands on the cross-hatched side, Player One gets no points and she gives the die to Player Two.
3.If the die lands on the long side or concave side with the X-pattern, the player gets two points and takes another turn.
4.If the die falls on the bottom, the player gets four points and takes another turn.
Each player continues to throw the die until it lands on the
cross-hatched side and her opponent takes a turn.
As indicated on the main page concerning Inuit Games, the Inuit version of Bilboquet is an adapted copy of a wide-spread European game. In the Inuit Language, the people of Repulse Bay (Canada) call this game Iyaga, while other Inuit groups may have another name for the game. For example, the drawing at the left (Government of Canada: Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs, 1975, #QS-8050-000-BB-A1) of an Inuit woman playing the game is by Sorosilutoo and titled Ilukitatuk. This Inuit artist is from Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (Canada).
Inuit carvers occasionally make the game equipment from the point of a muskox horn, but more frequently from a the humerus of a seal. Normally, a hole is drilled off center into one of the ends of the piece of "target" bone in order to attach a plaited piece of sinew cord. The other end of the cord is attached to a sliver of bone shaped into a long pin. By swinging the "target" bone in the air the player attempts to catch it on the point of the long pin. The following two photos illustrate two different types of this game.The left one illustrates a "target" bone that has a large single hole in which the pin can "spear" the "target". The one on the right illustrates a "target" that has multiple smaller holes - requiring the player to have more exacting eye-hand coordination.
This is a game often played at festivals and other Inuit celebrations and reminds one of non-Inuit contests which make use of a trampoline. This sketch is by Sorosilutoo and is titled Qumuaqataijut. This Inuit artist is from Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (Government of Canada: Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs, 1975, #QS-8050-000-BB-A1).
The photograph at the left was taken in Canada in the Northwest Territories in 1978, and illustrates the Holman Island version of the game which has the name Nalukauq. The "blanket" for the game is usually made from seal or walrus skins and thus it can withstand the pounding that results every time a player lands back on it after a "toss". The game is often played in rounds - the winner is the player who bounces the highest.
As everyone knows, there are many different kinds of wrestling contests. This drawing by Sorosilutoo and titled Panguatut is from Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (Government of Canada: Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs, 1975, #QS-8050-000-BB-A1).
On Holman Island the Inuit there call a similar type of wrestling Una Tar Tuq. The intent of this type of wrestling is for two opponents to stand face-to-face with their arms around one another and their feet flat on the floor (or ground). The object is then for one opponent to lift the other!
Additional Inuit wrestling contests include a type of Leg Twist Wrestling. In this contest, two players lie on their sides, facing each other with their feet touching. One foot of each contestant is braced heel to toe against the opponents opposite foot, while the other foot is hooked around the opponents opposite foot. Hands are clasped under knees, and only using the hooked foot, one opponent attempts to turn the other opponent over!
Aboriginal boys and girls played a number of games such as running, wrestling, climbing, throwing and ball games. No doubt they were fun to play but they all had a serious purpose. They were not simply for amusement.
Kicking balls made from grass or fur bound with vines taught people agility, but they also had to effect of forming individuals into teams which taught them cooperation and working with others.
Throwing sticks was a form of preparation for spear throwing. Drawing animal tracks in the earth trained children to observe their environment and provided them with the skills necessary to catch food.
Adult Aborigines were often used by Europeans to track runaway convicts and criminals.
Digging games trained people to collect food such as yams; climbing games enabled people to develop other survival skills - the main purpose behind all the games that Aboriginal children played.
The Iroquois were the only Canadian Indians who used agriculture. There was rich farm lands where they lived along the St. Lawrennce river and Southern Ontario. Their main crop was corn, but they also grew beans and squash. They often grew all of their crops in the same field. They would harvest green corn, rost it and let it dry. They also collect wild raspberries, grapes and currents from the forests. They would collect nuts, boil them for the oil and store the oil in bladders.
The Iroquois also ate meat. Hunters would trap white tailed deer and kill as many as 100 in a single drive. In the summer they smoked fish and eel and in the fall they smoked venison. Hunters could kill pigeons with long clubs, killing thousands at a time. The also caught whitfish with nets and dried the meat. They also caught huge pikes and sturgeon. In the winter they would hunt black bear by tricking them into coming out of hibernation and killing them.
The Haida depended heavily on halibut, black cod, sea mammals, mollusks, and other sea species in addition to their freshwater salmon catches.
The Innuit are nomads, their life based on following the herds of cariboo, seals, and other animals and birds. These animals provid the Innuit with food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons. They use every last scrap of skin, bone and flesh of the animals they hunt. Their sole source of materials comes from their prey.
Hunting is a word that is used to identify the practice of catching and killing 'game' either as a sport or as a source of food. Gathering is the collecting of food such as plants, berries, eggs or insects. Fishing is another method of obtaining food.
The Aborigines who lived in areas which included waterways such as rivers or were on the seacoast, made canoes from bark or tree trunks.
The Eora / Dharawal made canoes which carried up to three or four people. In other areas, the canoes were much larger and included dugouts and outrigger types. They were made from tree trunks (not just the bark).
Aboriginal men and women who lived in coastal regions or in areas where there were rivers, caught and collected food by fishing. Males usually used spears, while females used hand lines with hooks made from shells and rocks as sinkers. Fish species were also caught by the use of fish traps. Some traps were made from rocks in the form of a pen. At high tide fish could swim in and out of them, but some were trapped within the rock walls at low tide. Traps were also constructed from sticks and tree branches across rivers to make a dam. When sufficient numbers were trapped the people would enter the water, scoop up the fish in their hands and throw them onto the river bank to be collected for cooking.
Males hunted animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and possums. But also reptiles (snakes and lizards) and birds such as ducks, swans and parrots. They used spears and boomerangs to hit, catch and kill - but also climbed trees to get their food. Sometimes they hunted in parties or groups and each person shared the catch. On these occasions some of the men acted as 'beaters' driving animals towards another group of men who were armed and waiting to spear the animals that were driven towards them. Sometimes they used fire to drive the animals forward.
Aboriginal woman (often carrying babies on their backs) and assisted by young children left the camp on a daily basis searching and collecting berries, yams and other sources of food.
Some writers have suggested that 'gathering' provided the bulk or main source of food for the Australian Aborigines. It has also been said that some tribes people were mainly 'vegetarians' because 'meat' was not readily available in some areas. It is also a fact that some Aboriginal people ate more marine life (fish, oysters and mussels etc) because these food items were predominant in the area in which they lived.
Survival was highly dependent upon knowledge of the life-cycle of flora and fauna and it is certain that the Aborigines had excellent understanding as they learned to track, hunt and gather food from when they were young children.
In 1972 Australian Anthropologist, Kenneth Maddock,said: "Australia is the only continent to have been populated until modern times exclusively by hunters and gatherers..." (The Australian Aborigines. A Portrait of their society). He also quoted statistics showing that in 10,000 BC all human beings (100%) were hunters and gatherers; by 1,500 AD this had reduced to about 1% because mankind had generally developed skills in the cultivation of crops and domestication of animals. By 1960 only 0.001% of the world's population were hunters and gatherers.
The fact that the Australian Aborigines did not cultivate land to grow crops or domesticate animals, they have often been portrayed as being a backward race.
However this can be disputed. After all, the Aborigines did harvest crops in the sense that they made a form of flour from various types of flora. Domestication of animals was not possible due to the type (or perhaps kind) of animals that roamed the continent of Australia. For example kangaroos, wombats, possums and snakes.
Sheep and cow were introduced by Europeans. But there is evidence to suggest that the Aborigines of the Cowpastures district (Campbelltown area) herded and killed cattle that had escaped from the Port Jackson area circa 1788 and found there way to that area.
These cattle had been transported from Africa and before vandals destroyed it, there was a cave in the Campbelltown area that was called Bull Cave, because of the drawings of cattle on the walls.
Those Aborigines who lived in coastal regions or near waterways caught fish and eels in a number of ways. Males often used a spear but are known to have also built fish-traps by making rectangular areas with rocks, that stood above the water at low tide. This meant that fish could swim into the traps at high tide and were trapped as the tide receded.
In the Illawarra district the Aborigines were often observed barricading (blocking) rivers with tree branches and logs. As fish swam down the river towards the sea they were trapped behind the dam where they were scooped up and thrown onto the shore. The Aborigines also fished from rocks and beaches using hand lines made from plants and hooks made from shells. Stones were used as sinkers.
Aboriginal people had to catch and collect their food, each and every day of their life. They were successful at doing this because they had an intimate knowledge of food-chain cycles, the migration patterns of birds and of the habitat where they lived. No doubt there were times when there were food shortages. But the essential point is that the Aboriginal people had a complete understanding of the flora and fauna within their tribal territory. They also engaged in land management practices - mainly burning grass and weeds.
Their totemic practices protected species because a person could not eat his own totem and others needed permission to catch another person's totem on his land. For example, a man whose totem was a waterfowl would not eat that bird (otherwise it would be a form of cannibalism). Other members of the tribe could not hunt the bird in the territory that belonged to another man. This provided a safe environment for different species.
First Nation in Present
Where they live
The Iroquois people of today live in seventeen scattered communities in New York State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ontario, and Quebec. Some also live in eastern urban centers such as Rochester and Brooklyn. The Iroquois are six nations who joined together to form a confederacy of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora Nations.
In New York State, their communities are to be found, going from east to west, at the following locations:
Akwesasne (St Regis} Reservation: a few miles east of Massena. Mohawk Nation
Ganiengeh: near Altona, north of Plattsburg. Mohawk
Kanatsiohareke: along Route 5 near Fonda, NY. Mohawk Nation
Oneida: near Oneida, Madison Co.. on Rt. 46. Oneida Nation.
Onondaga: Just south of Syracuse, on Rt. 11A. Onondaga Nation.
Tonawanda: southeast of Lockport. Seneca Nation.
Allegany : at Salamanca, between Jamestown and Olean. Seneca Nation.
Tuscarora: near Lewiston, north of Niagara Falls. Tuscarora Nation.
Cattaraugus: northwest of Gowanda, southwest of Buffalo. Seneca Nation.
In Wisconsin, Iroquois live at Oneida, near Green Bay.
In Oklahoma, Iroquois live near Turkey Ford, northeast Oklahoma (the Seneca-Cayuga Nation).
In Canada, Iroquois live at the following locations, from east to west:
Kahnawake (Caughnawaga}:across the St. Lawrence River, just south of Montreal. Mohawk Nation.
Kanesatake: at Oka. on the Ottawa River, about, 20 mi. northwest of Montreal.
Akwesasne (St. Regis): south of Cornwall, Ontario. Mohawk Nation.
Tyendinaga (Deseronto): at Deseronto, east of Belleville, Ontario. Mohawk Nation.
Six Nations Reserve: near Brantford, Ontario. All Nations represented.
Oneida: southwest of London, Ontario. Oneida Nation.
Gibson (Wahta): southeast of Georgian Bay, near Bala, Ontario. Mohawk Nation.
How they live today
Iroquois do not live in teepees or bark houses. A few log cabins can be found on reservations, and these may date back to the Revolution, when all Iroquois gave up living in their traditional elm bark Ionghouses. Today most Iroquois live in frame houses, modular homes, or trailers. A few farm their land and some have small kitchen gardens. Much of their land Is left in its natural state. Often a state or local highway cuts through the land, with a sign posted to alert the driver that they are on Indian territory. Depending upon the community, there are convenience stores, gas stations, churches, nursing homes, libraries, auto repair shops, or other commercial enterprises, such as beauty parlors, lumber mills, banks, construction companies or even a shopping mall on the land and a few Iroquois advertise crafts for sale at small shops or at their homes. Smoke shops and Bingo halls are also becoming familiar at some communities. Some have culture centers and museums.
The standard of living on reservation is generally below that of the surrounding white communities. A number of Iroquois are wage workers, earning a living as teachers, factory workers, construction workers (high steel particularly), secretaries, or perhaps as employees of their nationís government. Quite a few are on welfare. Unemployment is a serious problem.
Elementary school education is often given on the reservation. High school students have to travel to white schools off the reservation. Increasing numbers go on to college and graduate school.
At many reservations, Iroquois have built and are building libraries, health centers, cultural centers, museums, and sports and recreation centers staffed by Iroquois. Sports such as lacrosse and hockey are strongly supported.
There are churches of various denominations for the Christians, and the modern, wood-framed version of the traditional Ionghouse is evident at most reservations for the followers of their traditional religion.
There are sizable communities in urban areas such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Brooklyn, Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton.
Today there are still Haidas living on Queen Charlotte Islands, but many of them are quite pore. There is a major drug problem booth among adults and especially among the children. Many of the children also have problems at home.
But not every one has problems. There are a lot of richer and wealthy people too. Some people work very hard to keep the Haida culture alive, preserve the language, the ceremonies, the dances, the songs and other native customs.
It is easy to see the past in the art of the Haida people (paintings, carvings). The art today is almost the same as the art 100 years ago. Today you can still see the art everywhere, in houses, on canoes, on cloths and off course in all kind of stores. The main object on the paintings and carvings is different kinds of animals which all has their own spiritual meaning.
Dorothy Grant is a Haida women living today, she is trying to keep the Haida culture alive by among other things sculpturing on cloth.
The Inuit of Canada are now in the post land claim era of our continuing history. Consequently, it is impossible to discuss our future as part of the larger Canadian fabric without giving serious consideration to the role we will play in the next phase of economic and political development throughout the Canadian North. We cannot, however, assume that this new role will be developed at the expense of more traditional activities which characterize our mixed subsistence based economies that are so vital for the long term economic and social health of our communities.
We cannot pursue avenues leading to new economic development if they ignore or impact upon our continuing ability to hunt or to earn an income from the application of traditional skills. Family members continue to contribute to household incomes that are derived from several different sectors of the new economy. In this way we are able to balance the emerging opportunities with our stable and sustainable traditional hunting and social activities. As part of our new political position we are able to support and strengthen our sustainable attachment to the territorial and resource base of our culture through direct participation in newly established management boards or through co-management programs.
During earlier phases of economic development, the approach most often taken was one that emphasized small scale projects organized at the community level. While not all projects were successful, the commercial and artistic success of Inuit carving and print making are concrete evidence of the value of this approach. The development of marketing cooperatives reflected new ways of taking more effective control over economic activity. Educational and training programs are providing both younger and older Inuit with an opportunity to reshape traditional skills and acquire modern technical skills that help support economic initiatives. One of the most promising economic development areas is in the tourist sector, especially for ecological and cultural tourism.
While Inuit communities were experimenting with economic development programs at the local level, industry and governments in Canada began paying greater attention to large scale development projects especially those linked to the exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves, mineral deposits and hydroelectric potential.
Our cautious interest in larger scale development, reshaped by land claims, has now opened a new chapter of northern development. Not only have land claim agreements provided a legal and administrative framework vital to our orderly economic development, but the negotiating process has also served as a training ground for the rapid growth of Inuit expertise. Perhaps most importantly, the land claim agreements have provided significant working capital that our regional organizations can use for initiating a wide range of economic development projects that reflect local as well as regionwide ideas from an Inuit perspective.
Even though the number of Aboriginals who go through compulsory school has almost quadrupled, there are still problems with the education. A lot of Aboriginal children have poor study results and this has a lot to do with their home situations - weak economy, long periods of illnesses and low self-esteem. It is also not uncommon that Aboriginal children are being bullied and harassed in school because of their origin - which in turn leads to many of them dropping out of school. Another big problem in the suburbs is that English is the second language for many Aboriginals and in Australian schools English is the language of communication.
To deal with these problems, leaders in the educational system have started a special language education for teachers and Aboriginal students in Australian schools. There are also some schools that specializes on Aboriginal languages, which is a very good thing. Although some things are dealt with, the big issue is to try to change the discriminating views that some people have of the Aboriginals, since that, in my view, is the real issue!
The problems in education bring us to another topic, namely the level of criminality which is high amongst young Aboriginals and the problems in school are often contributing factors to this problem.
Although criminality today is an issue which the Australian government is trying to deal with, there are still a large number of Aboriginals who get on the wrong track. A study from the 1980s (page 19, Richard Nile, Aboriginals in Australia) showed that the Aboriginals were 1, 5% of the Australian population. Out of the whole population in Australia, 15% were Aboriginals in prison, 25% were Aboriginals who die in custody and 30% were Aboriginals who are arrested by the police. Even though Margaretha Hammarberg's book Australia's Aboriginals - from prehistoric times to present time was written in 2000, she also talks about the same problem existing at that time.
The relationship between the police and the Aboriginals has always been bad. The police seldom see any extenuating circumstances when an Aboriginal is guilty of a crime and the process called Mandatory Sentencing which was introduced in 1997 in Australia is also something that contributes to the fact that many Aboriginals are in prison. Mandatory Sentencing implies that anyone who has turned 17 years old and is not previously sentenced is obligatory sentenced to 14 days in prison if he/she is caught shop-lifting, damaging or committing any other minor crime. If the same person commits a crime again he/she is sentenced to 3 months in prison and the third time the person commits a crime he/she is sentenced to a year in prison. Even if this law is the same for everyone, Aboriginal and white Australian, it is more likely that Aboriginals are affected by this, considering their poor situations at home, in school, alcohol and drug abuse.
First Nations developed several means to travel efficiently in an environment with innumerable streams, rivers and lakes. The snowshoe, toboggan and canoe, particularly the light and maneuverable birchbark canoe, allowed First Nations living in colder, wintry climates to travel across the land at different times of year.
All First Nations used a variety of technologies to transport themselves and their possessions from one place to another. For example, First Nations faced with long, cold winters designed and constructed snowshoes. Snowshoes were a light and efficient means to travel swiftly over deep snow. Without them, hunters could not pursue large animals such as caribou, deer, elk and moose which provided humans with essential food for communitiesí survival during the long, cold winter months.
Snowshoes also enabled families to maintain traplines throughout the winter. Traplines were a source of smaller game, like beaver, muskrat and rabbit. They supplemented the meat from the larger animals, which were more difficult to kill. Without snowshoes, access to snow-covered lakes would also have been difficult. Lakes were important sources of food fish such as pike, walleye, trout and whitefish.
First Nations designed several different shapes of snowshoes. However, all designs consisted of a curved wooden frame, a harness and rawhide lashings in a crisscross pattern to support the wearer. The invention of snowshoes demonstrated First Nationsí knowledge and understanding of the science of weight distribution. The light but sturdy wooden frames and the open weave of the rawhide lashings enabled First Nations to travel in deep snow with a minimum of physical effort and considerable efficiency.
Another invention that influenced First Nationsí winter travel was the toboggan. The word toboggan is borrowed from the Miíkmaq word tabaígan. The original toboggan design was created by the Miíkmaq people of eastern Canada. Originally, these toboggans were made of bark and animal skins. Toboggans were constructed of long, thin strips of wood, usually cedar over two metres long. They were used principally by hunters and trappers to transport food and furs. Toboggans were ideal for hauling heavy loads in deep snow. The curved front allowed the toboggan to ride easily over mounds and bumps. Although it was not as widely distributed among First Nations as the snowshoe, it made it possible for First Nations in the subarctic ó including the Swampy Cree, Ojibway, Algonquin, Montagnais, Saulteaux and Innu ó to transport heavy loads across deep snow.
Apart from walking, the principal mode of travel and transportation for all First Nations was the canoe. It was ideally suited for travel on either the East or West Coast or on the landís countless rivers, streams and lakes. First Nations throughout Canada constructed canoes uniquely suited and adapted to these natural conditions. From the East coast to the Rocky Mountains, bark-covered canoes enabled hunters and fishers to pursue their prey, and families to relocate to more productive sites. Traders also used canoes to participate in the continent-wide trade network in which all North American First Nations engaged. Birchbark was the bark of choice. But elm and occasionally spruce bark were also options, albeit less satisfactory ones. When suitable bark was unavailable, animal hides such as moose were sometimes substituted.
On the north Pacific Coast, First Nations cultures such as the Nootka, Coast Salish, Kwakiutl and Haida, used the canoe to fish and to hunt whales and other sea mammals. Unlike the light and comparatively fragile bark-covered canoes used by the traditional cultures east of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific coast canoes were essentially dug-outs. Skilled canoe makers created them from the huge, abundant red and yellow cedar, and redwood. Occasionally, they used wood from the Sitka spruce trees that thrived on the fertile Pacific Coast. The vessels ranged in size from small, narrow craft four metres long to immense sea-going canoes of 14 metres or more, with room for 60 to 70 passengers.
Although First Nations in the east, such as the Ojibway and Malecite, did construct dug-out canoes, the Pacific Coast First Nations canoes were giants by comparison. Some First Nations used two other vessels for water transportation. These were log rafts and round, bowl-shaped craft (known as bull boats) that were covered with animal skins. These occasionally substituted for canoes when people were crossing rivers or travelling short distances on open water.
To propel their canoes, First Nations used paddles carved from wood. Each First Nation produced its own distinctive paddle. All of them had a considerably narrower blade than the modern canoe paddle. When they had to travel upstream, especially in shallow or slow water, First Nations used long poles instead of paddles. Another form of First Nations transportation was the travois, which was pulled by dogs or horses. It consisted of two long poles harnessed over the animalís back. A seat or bench was fixed to the two poles so that the travois could carry a load, including human passengers.
The light and maneuverable birchbark canoe, the toboggan and snowshoe became lasting features of Canadian history. Each one contributed to Europeansí exploration of the country, and all three were essential elements in the fur trade. Contemporary models of these forms of transportation are used throughout Canada, primarily for recreation. However, First Nations in the north and in remote communities continue to use them widely. Despite new materials used in their construction, the fundamental designs of the three devices remain unchanged. Like other Canadians, First Nations today rely on cars, trucks, vans and airplanes for their daily and business travel. Most First Nations communities also depend on gas-powered vehicles such as snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and motorboats for travel and transportation.
The Iroquois used animal skins, mostly elk, deer, bear and racoon to make their clothing. They adorned their clothing with feathers and beads and they also tatooed themselves.
The Haida used a variety of materials to consturct their clothing such as down, the wool of mountain goats, dog hair, bark of yellow cedar and cherry trees, and the stems of various reeds. They constructed blankets, capes, baskets, mats and hats by weaving and twinning these materials. Their cloths were also important religious and klan symbols.
The Inuit had to dress very warmly because of the cold climate they lived in. Winter clothing was made of hooded jackets and pants made out of skins and fir with close fitting stockings and boots. They had to have warm cloths that also allowed easy movement.
The Aboriginal people of the Sydney, Illawarra and Shoalhaven district [and most, if not in all parts of Australia], were often observed by early settlers to be naked. The men and women of some tribes are known to have worn a belt around their middle made of hair, animal fur, skin or fiber which they used to carry tools and weapons. These belts often had a flap at the front. This appears to have been a modification that was added during European colonization when the British colonists and authorities were concerned about modesty and imposed their standards on the Aborigines - who were unashamed of their nakedness.
Aboriginal people needed to be warm in winter months and made cloaks and rugs from possum and other animal skins. Cloaks were worn during the day and used as blankets during the night. A number of skins were needed to make the garment through a process of being cleaned, dried and sewn together.
During colonization individual settlers gave the Aborigines their old clothes [known as slops]. The people were often recorded as wearing a variety of clothes such as army or navy jackets, trousers, petticoats and blouses.
For decoration, feathers, kangaroo teeth and beads formed from short pieces of reed or teeth were worn. In the Sydney, Illawarra and Shoalhaven district the men wore a bone or piece of wood through their nose. A hole was cut through their nose during initiation and this distinguished them from other tribes who did not use this particular tradition.
[History of Wollongong, 1997]