June is Indigenous History Month: Some Resources for Learning Indigenous History and Culture
As you may or may not know, this month is dedicated to learning about the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples in Canada, or, as some First Nations groups call it, Turtle Island. Did you know that there are over 650 registered First Nations groups across Canada, each with their own vibrant cultures, traditions, communities, and oral narratives. In recent years, there has been a push to re-examine reevaluate current perceptions about our relationships with First Nations persons. To truly work towards reconciliation with First Nations in our country, we should all learn about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and reflect on the ways in which they were helped or hindered by settlers. Here are some resources that we have selected for you to assist you in learning about the Indigenous peoples living in Canada.
Figure 1: The logo created by the Government of Canada for National Indigenous History Month. The central motif is the sun and the summer solstice, at the heart of many celebrations for First Nations people. The Eagle represents First Nations people, the narwhal stands in for Inuit peoples, and the violin portrays the Metis people.
A good place to start is the Canadian Encyclopedia, which is an encyclopedia designed to provide reference material on topics related to Canadian history. In this database, they have several in-depth articles related to Indigenous arts and culture, languages, treaties, and famous individuals. You can find this collection of articles by clicking on this link here.
Another resource that you can access through our Digital Library page is called Frontier Life. This is a online digital resource filled with primary source documentation from several different libraries and archives. It focuses on interactions between settlers and First Nations, which includes letters, images, diaries, government papers, business records, and other sources dating from 1600 to the mid-1900’s. The database is very wide ranging in terms of its content, with a substantial section on Canada, with particular emphasis on the provinces of Alberta and British Colombia. In addition, there is also interesting content relating to Indigenous groups in the United States and Australia.
We can also recommend checking out The Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada, which touch on a variety of topics written by First Nations writers to help to educate both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people about issues relevant to contemporary First Nations groups.
We also know that learning about these topics can be quite heavy. Therefore, we would also like to recommend a couple of video games where you can not only learn about Indigenous peoples, but also enjoy yourself at the same time. A free game that you can play in your internet browser, or on your smartphone or tablet is called Thunderbird Strike. This 2D side-scroller game allows you to play as a thunderbird (a sacred animal in First Nations oral traditions) where you fly from the Tar Sands to the Great Lakes protecting Turtle Island with lighting against a large serpent who seeks to swallow the land whole.
Another free game that you could play (along with the young people in your life) is called Starscribe, designed by Brandon Bunnie and featured in Root & STEM magazine, from an Indigenous educational institute called PINNGUAG. In it, you explore the moon’s surface where you will learn about several Cree constellations in combination with their Western names.
We hope that these resources will be useful to you as you strive to educate yourself about the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people of Canada. In addition to these online resources we have suggested, why not check out a booklist that we have created on our catalogue which highlights Indigenous writers, artists, and illustrators across Canada?