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Aboriginal Heritage

This June 21, events will be held from coast to coast to celebrate National Aboriginal Day.  A rich Aboriginal culture in Canada is evident in the names of many Canadian cities and provinces including Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.   Their culture is an integral part of Canada.  First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities span the entire country and are a vital aspect of Canada's culture.  The influence of Aboriginal heritage is evident in the numerous historic places associated with Aboriginal peoples listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.  From archaeological sites to recent built heritage, Aboriginal history plays a central role in Canada's protection of historic places. Kejimkujik, Parks Canada / Kejimkujik, Parcs Canada

Archaeological evidence of ancient sites provides rich insight into the cultural traditions of early First Nations communities.  At Nova Scotia's Kejimkujik National Historic Site, petroglyphs (cave drawing) are part of the former Mi'kmaq villages, thus creating a fascinating aboriginal cultural landscape.  Early images include animals, canoes, people; later drawings depict sailing ships.  Although the age of many of the petroglyphs is not certain, the cultural landscape itself clearly portrays the significance and longevity of First Nations culture.

The cultural heritage of another significant Aboriginal group, the Inuit is found in the Canadian Arctic.  At the mouth of the Mackenzie River, in the Northwest Territories, is the island of Kittigazuit - home of Kittigazuit Archaeological Sites National Historic Site.  This historic place features the remains of a village of Kittigazuit which includes ruins of winter houses, a log cabin and an ice house.  This area was continuously used from approximately 1400 to 1900 and was the location of the largest seasonal gathering of Inuit and was a beluga-hunting station for the Kitigaaryungmuit - ancestors of today's residents of Inuvik and Tuktoyuktut.  The village was also involved in the whaling industry, and associated with the Hudson's Bay Company as the first trading post on the coast of the western Arctic Ocean.Yuquot, Parks Canada / Yoquot, Parcs Canada

The endurance of First Nation's culture is also well preserved at Yuquot National Historic S ite through its continued occupancy for over 4,300 years.  Yuquot is important as an early contact site between First Nations and Europeans and as a meeting place for diplomacy between two cultures.  Primarily occupied by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations, Yuquot was the social, political and economic centre for the surrounding region.  It is linked with the origin of Nuu-chah-nulth whaling - an integral part of their culture.

In a country with vast natural resources, early contact between the Aboriginal population and European explorers was based on the fur trade.  The Hudson's Bay Company Factor's House in Fort Vermillion, Alberta has been recognized for its role in the fur trade and as another meeting place between two cultures.  Fort Vermillion was an Hudson's Bay Company Factor's House, Glenbow Archives, NA-3471-29 / La maison de l'agent de la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson, archives de Glenbow NA-3471-29important trading post in the northwest because its location granted access to the Boreal forest of the Athabasca region.  Beaver, Slavey, and Cree First Nations as well as Métis free traders frequented the Hudson's Bay Company Factor's House.  It is the last remnant of the once intensive fur trade operation and a reflection of the significant Aboriginal involvement and contribution to North America's fur trade industry.

First Nations diversity of community and culture across Canada is highlighted in Canada's historic places, and the Canadian Register of Historic Places attempts to capture this cultural wealth.  To celebrate National Aboriginal Day, you can search the Canadian Register to become better informed about Aboriginal culture in Canada, and then head out to discover first-hand the meaning and significance of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture in Canadian history.  For those who want to actively participate in the celebrations, many aboriginal communities will host ceremonies or festive events to mark their heritage.

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