College Essay Examples

Aboriginal People of Canada



The assimilation and acculturation context for the Native Canadians is unique compared to Canadians who have other descent. This is because of their indigeneity and the fact that they are the inhabitants of the country (Canada) from a historical perspective. Colonization is the process of settling and/or establishing control over aboriginal people living in a particular area. Aboriginal people of Canada have had their share of dominion, which came into force following several policies and legislations in the country (Stonefish & Kwantes, 2017). Policies and legislations regarding the assimilation of aboriginal people in Canada were largely put in place mostly because such aboriginals had no rights unless they assimilate to become Canadians – enfranchisement. Generally, Canada is regarded as a culturally plural society with several distinct cultural zones. These zones were settled by different people such as the Europeans, Africans, Asians, and South Americans (Noels & Berry, 2006). Other acculturating groups in Canada include the sojourners, refugees, and immigrants. Due to contact between these groups, several phenomena regarding acculturation arose, and as of today, there is a long history of the same. Most people who moved to the Canadian cultural zones have, to a large extent, maintained their cultural heritage, and this has attracted several acculturation studies among these ethnocultural groups. This paper gives an overview of the assimilation and acculturation of the aboriginal people of Canada. 

One of the major components of assimilation and acculturation is adaptation. At its most basic level, adaptation is the process of change in response to a new setting and/or environment. It generally relates to the change that occurs in a particular culture associated with a particular group. New groups have to undergo a racial-ethnic process of identity development to identify themselves with Native Canadians. In most cases, this regards adaption to factors relating to health behaviors and outcomes of mental health (Gushalak et al., 2011).  Today, newer groups moving to the cultural zones in Canada tend to have different responses to assimilation and acculturation. In regard to this, there is a trade-off between the urge to maintain the “old” culture with a newer one following exposure. In some cases, this trade-off is mostly affected by several stressors that shift in response to the choice of one response over the other (Berry, 1997). Besides the need to make a choice in this case, newer groups also have to adapt to challenges in Canada that are obvious to the Native Canadians. The process of adaptation is generally continuous, and the determinant factors, in most cases, include climate, health, language, gender roles, social norms, and racism. 

Similar to Canada, India is also associated with several and distinct aboriginal groups and cultures. In India, ethnic groups that tend to have an aboriginal background are mostly referred to as scheduled tribes. Two essential patterns are associated with Indian accommodation to acculturation regarding the civilization of the post-conquest times, which divide the new world. On the other end of the spectrum, there are regions that are known to have high and deep cultures, and these particular Indians form a significant percentage of the population (Benedict, 1943). In regard to the acculturation of American Indians, the concept of acculturation can be viewed as an effect that is so transformative, especially to the being to adapt to new characteristics and/or values from a completely new culture associated with the European American. The acculturation and assimilation of American Indians can be described to be systematic in the sense that it was orchestrated for more than a century, mostly through colonization (Cromer et al., 2018). Colonization was overtly and explicitly meant to cause not only a cleansing of ethnic aspects but also led to racial and/or cultural genocide. One of the significant aspects of the historical assimilation of the American Indians was the substantial reduction in their population. 

The acculturation of the American Indian to the European culture happened at an institutional level. This mostly was as a result of contact with the European – American Indian history. During the colonization period that took place between 1492 and 1787, there was cultural tension between the Europeans and the American Indians following the violence that existed between the two nations. Generally, assimilation was a result of a myriad of factors that included trading and contact between cultures, the decimation of the Indian population as a result of war and diseases. This differs from the assimilation and acculturation of the Canadian aboriginal people. Indians also lost their land, which was also a hallmark signifying the loss and change of the aboriginal cultures (Cromer et al., 2018). 

The Indian acculturation to the European culture was generally orchestrated through relocation. This, to a large extent, is associated with cultural genocide in India’s aboriginal culture. Around 1830, Indians were forcibly relocated to the western lands of the United States. Although some of the Indians survived the long marches during relocation, they lost their homes, community, and indigenous culture. Most of the children were removed from their homes, and the new schools they attended had a huge influence in absorbing them into the European American culture and inculcating them with newer value systems such as those relating to individualism and Christianity. The period between 1887 and 1934 was characterized by the U.S policies that largely forced the assimilation of Indians into the colonial culture. The policies also saw the distribution of lands for individuals ownership as contrasted to community ownership which further destroyed the traditional culture of the Indians along with their traditional territories. The traditional way of living, that is, homesteads, were also targeted in a bid to destroy communal living, which was one of the pillars that held the aboriginal people together. In the U.S, some federal laws were also put in place so that the American Indian languages can be eradicated. All these policies were put in place so that indigenous people from India can lose their culture and adopt a newer one. Compared to assimilation and acculturation in aboriginal people in Canada, this is how it happened for American Indian people.


Besides the loss of aboriginal culture, aboriginal people also tend to go through several other challenges. Aboriginal people have, for example, suffered a breach of promises, exclusion, and no-so-favorable legislations. These are the same things that Canada can leverage to make things better. In the case of unmet treaties and/or promises, Canada can devise several others ways to ensure they are fulfilled. Generally, treaties and promises cover large areas associated with the Canadian landscape which have never been upheld. However, through an act of legislation, such unfulfilled treaties and promises can be sanctioned through executive actions (CAID, 2019). Recognition of rights is another approach that can be used to make things right. Several relationship ties affiliated with the aboriginal people were broken following the loss of their culture. Most of the rights that protected the aboriginal people were gradually not recognized. The rights of aboriginal people were also not included during the formation of legislation. Even today, most of their rights are not part of the legislation. Addressing this problem can be very beneficial as it gives aboriginal people a sense of inclusion. More so, making things better would mean not only defining the aboriginal rights but also granting them to the aboriginal people. This means that indigenous rights should also be included in the legislation. Other important aspects that may make things better include enfranchisement processes that can make aboriginal people full citizens, initiation of aboriginal people welfare agencies and/or services, and introduction of school systems that do not primarily assimilate indigenous children.

In summation, it is ideal that through assimilation and acculturation, the aboriginal people of Canada have gone through a process of change, especially on what they may regard as indigenous culture. In many ways, the aboriginal people of Canada have been dominated. Domination, in most cases, came in force in the form of major policies and legislation. Mostly, these legislations were put in place due to the fact that aboriginal people had no rights. To enjoy their rights, they had to go through a process of enfranchisement which would eventually turn them into full citizens of Canada. In Canada, there are several cultural zones that make the entire society rich in several distinct groups. It is through contact with these groups that aspects of acculturation and assimilation arose in Canada. Although some groups were able to maintain some elements of their indigenous culture, most of them were lost through assimilation and acculturation. Compared to other cultures, such as the American Indian, assimilation and acculturation of aboriginal people in Canada tend to be different. In American Indians, for example, assimilation and acculturation occurred as a result of the loss of land and immigration of the native Indians. Contact with European and American cultures is what led to acculturation. To restore the original aspects of the aboriginal cultures, several things may need to be done. Such, for example, may include recognition and sanction of aboriginal rights, honoring treaties and promises made to aboriginal people, initiation of aboriginal welfare services, and enfranchisement of aboriginal people into full citizens.



Benedict, R. (1943). Two Patterns of Indian Acculturation.

Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, Acculturation, and Adaptation. Applied Psychology, 5-34.

CAID. (2019, July 28). Policies of Assimilation. Retrieved from Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments:

Cromer, D. L., Gray, M. E., Vasquez, L., & Freyd, J. J. (2018). The Relationship of Acculturation to Historical Loss Awareness, Institutional Betrayal, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma in the American Indian Experience. The Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 99-114.

Gushalak, B. D., Pottie, K., & Hatcher, R. J. (2011). Migration and Health in Canada: Health in the Global Village. Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Noels, K. A., & Berry, J. A. (2006). Acculturation in Canada. In D. L. Sam, & J. W. Berry, The Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology (pp. 274-293). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stonefish, T., & Kwantes, C. T. (2017). Values and Acculturations: A Native Canadian Exploration. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 63-76.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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