July 18, 2008

Natives not on Canada's list

First Nations added to list of defining Canadian iconsThe list, commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Dominion Institute, was compiled from the responses of more than 3,000 Canadians who were asked to identify those people, places, events, accomplishments and symbols that best define Canada.

"The top symbols were the Maple Leaf, the beaver, the Canadian flag," said Marc Chalifoux, executive director of the Dominion Institute.

"Aboriginal culture, in my view—it was a really surprising element that was missing from the list. The survey was quite exhaustive."

After the original list was finalized, the project's website posed the question: Tell us what's missing?

"What's nice is to see that, when Canadians were asked what was missing from the list of 101, that's what came in as the first choice, the most glaring omission," Chalifoux said.

As a result, the institute announced Tuesday that aboriginals would take the 102nd spot. They will also be included in 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada, a book scheduled for release in the fall.

Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse called it "disappointing" that aboriginals didn't make the original list. A lack of proper education in Canadian schools about the role First Nations played in building the country could be to blame, Toulouse said.

For many Canadians, aboriginals remain "out of sight, out of mind," he said.
Comment:  Here's the original list of 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada.

"Just over 1.3 million people reported having at least some Aboriginal ancestry in 2001, representing 4.4 % of the total population," according to Statistics Canada. Therefore, four or five items on the list should've been Aboriginal. "Space exploration" made the list--because Canadians are so famous for that--as well as "Olympics," "2010 Vancouver Olympics," and "Olympic Stadium." But there wasn't room for Natives.

Did the organizers throw out the vote because it was ridiculously biased and Eurocentric? Did they apologize to Canada's First Nations for the gross oversight? No, they held another vote, with no guarantee it would rectify the situation. Here's how it went:

Aboriginal Canadians Voted # 102On June 30, 2008 with the launch of 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada, we invited Canadians to vote for the one person, place, symbol, event or accomplishment that they believed was missing from the list of 101 things generated by Ipsos-Reid.

More than 4,000 Canadians logged on and cast a vote. They selected Aboriginal Canadians as the missing topic. In total the Institute received more than 400 topics from online visitors.

The Dominion Institute will include a write-up on Aboriginal Canadians in our Key Porter Books publication to be released in October 2008.

Aboriginal Canadians
(114 votes)

Canada "Eh?"
(96 votes)

Strong and Free
(86 votes)
Whew...close call. "Aboriginal Canadians" barely made it onto the list, followed closely by the word "eh?" What else was on the list: "duh," "I dunno," and "whatever"? Nice to see how insignificant Natives are in most Canadians' minds.

Of course, the results would be roughly the same in the US. Indians would deserve 4-5 spots on an American list of things Americans should know. But I wouldn't be surprised if they got zero votes.

In reality, something like "cowboys and Indians" should make the list. There also should be several items that are implicitly about Indians: e.g., Columbus, the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, pioneers, the Wild West, etc. I'd say an entry for each of the nation's major minorities--blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians--would be appropriate.

For more on the subject of popular icons, see The 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

I found one claim on the Internet once that Canada's maple-leaf flag was derived from a symbol/banner/etc used by a United States Native chief. I only found this in one place, and tried to verify it to no avail.