Constructive corrections on term "aboriginal"

Letter to the Editor:

I’m writing to offer some constructive corrections to your use of certain terminology.  I’m also hoping that this action will lead to changes in your respective publishing style guides.

There are no aboriginal reserves or aboriginal Chiefs.  Aboriginal people did not sign the treaties.  There is no aboriginal language nor is their an aboriginal culture.  The word aboriginal is not a proper noun and I would suggest that it not be capitalized.

The word “aboriginal” refers to the collective of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.  Use of this term began during the Constitutional talks of the early 1980s.  What most people don’t know is that it is a term that was imposed on our people.  While at the very same time, we had come to a collective consensus and insisted that we be referred to as “First Nations”, as opposed to native, Indian, indigenous, aboriginal, etc.

In June, the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation outlawed the use of the term aboriginal, citing the latin origins or the pre-fix “ab” – meaning something that is “away from”.  First Nations are nothing less than the ORIGINAL people of this continent.  The resolution, which was passed unanimously, also stated that First Nations are now improperly and disrespectfully being lumped into a homogenous group with service providers, NGOs, special interest groups, non-status, the Metis and the Inuit under the broad spectrum of “aboriginal”.

Society has become so politically correct many people are forgetting to simply ask or go out of their way to find out what terminology ought to be used.

For us, we now officially consider the use of the term “aboriginal” offensive when specifically referring to First Nations.

For our Nation, we prefer to be called “Anishinabek”, which is our word that refers to collective of the Ojibway, Odawa, Pottawatomi, Chippewa, Mississauga and Algonquin.  Other Nations have different terms.  In telling the sad story of violence on the Hobbema Reserve, not once were the people referred to as who they are: Cree.  Even when you seem to get it right – you don’t.   The media often use “Mohawk” frequently to refer to those responsible for the occupation and dispute in Caledonia.  In reality, the occupation is being led by the full spectrum of the “Haudenasaunee”:  Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Cuyuga, Onondaga, and Tucarora.

Unbenownst to the editors, producers, readers and audience, the use of the term “aboriginal” by the media in it’s improper context contributes to the assimilation of our people – and the negative impacts resulting from our loss of identity.

It is definitely complex.  But it is no more complex than learning about the many other beautiful people and cultures within Canada.  Learning of this nature is indeed a worthwhile pursuit.  In this era of apologies, responsibility, respect and learning perhaps it is time to really get to know Canada’s First Nation, Metis and Inuit people.  It starts by knowing how to respectfully address us —  individually, collectively and as Nations.

Bob Goulais
Anishinabek Nation

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