Aboriginal Culture



How do the effects of the dominant North American Culture such as climate change affect aboriginal culture and how the media choose to cover this? This page is going to address how aboriginal culture is affected by the dominant North American culture and how these effects are documented in the media in the following ways:


      This page will address how things like climate change effect native North American’s quality of living. As a group of cultures with a strong attachment to nature, how does the degradation of the very environment they call home effect their survival, in terms of acquisition of food and quality of living?


  • Traditional Aboriginal food is used to refer to local flora and fauna such as animals, fish, birds and plants that are harvested from the environment for human consumption. (1)

  • People living in the northern parts of Canada have a nutritional, spiritual and cultural dependence on these systems. (1)

  • Dietary surveying of Dene, Métis and Yukon communities in northern Canada, found that caribou and moose meat were two major sources of energy, protein, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium in these peoples diets. (1)

  • Changes in climate have the ability to change the distribution and health of these animal species, as well as to affect the land, water and ice, creating implications that can change the traditional food harvest. (1)


      How is the aboriginal population dealing with the stressors of having their food sources begin to dwindle, is this creating a stronger reliance on farmed food from markets or are they adapting in an attempt to derive nutrients from other aspects of their environment?


  • Change in harvest has the potential to create a greater shift away from traditional food and a loss of traditional knowledge and culture, affecting both the physical and spiritual health of these aboriginal people. (1)

  • A shift from traditional food consumption to a more market based process of food acquisition has resulted in an increase of consumption in carbohydrates and saturated fat in these Northwest Territories Dene/Métis communities. (1)

  • A replacement of nutrient-dense traditional food with high-sugar, high-fat, market food has contributed to an increase in diseases such as diabetes and obesity within the community. (1)

  • The epidemic of type 2 diabetes amongst Canada’s first nations is still getting progressively worse as the days go on, with a trend toward earlier age at onset. (3)

  • Genetic predispositions combined with environmental interactions are the likely cause. Media coverage of this epidemic is minimal to non-existent. Some of the few scattered intervention projects that have been implemented show some promise but a national Aboriginal diabetes strategy is urgently needed. (3)

  • The early occupants of North America lived in an arctic or subarctic environment on a protein- and fat-based diet with little carbohydrates, but because of environmental damage caused to first nations land, they can no longer sustain themselves exclusively through traditional means such as hunting. (3)

  • They are now pressured to derive nutrients from carbohydrate rich foods from markets that their bodies cannot properly process. (3)


      All of the information on this page is taken from scholarly sources. There is a heavy focus on gathering information that is derived directly from first nations opinions rather than assumptions made by third parties. This page also aims to avoid judging all native people as one group; terms such as first nations contribute to this. I am aware that there are several tribes all categorized as “first nations” and that just because they share that classification does not mean that they share their opinions verbatim. I want to explore individual tribe’s opinions on climate change and the tar sands in order to develop a more thorough knowledge of the first nations perception of these issues.


  • One of the most universal concerns for those speaking out against the sands is how dirty they are in relation to other fuels. (4)

  • There are more than 1,400 known pollutants emitted by oil sands operations. Surface mining has already disturbed more than 602 kilometers of land and led to the creation of about 130 kilometres of tailings ponds that contain dozens of toxic substances. (4)

  • All these effects are particularly relevant to the First Nations peoples whose reserves (traditional hunting grounds) are located on or near the oil sands deposits. (4)

  • Oil sands operations also occur upstream from many of these aboriginal communities and it is believed that they can have detrimental effects on aboriginal health. (2)

  • Groups such as the Mikisew Cree First Nations and the Athabasca Chipewyan aggressively challenge the oil sands companies and the state due to the damage caused by the oil sands to both the ecology surrounding them as well as the standard of health and living of their members. (2)

  • The rates at which member of aboriginal communities are being diagnosed with immune system problems and cancers are rising and developments in the oil sands appear to be to blame due to an increase in pollutants in aboriginal water supplies. (2)

  • Any health impacts later attributed to oil sands development could potentially affect tens of thousands of people, including not only those living near the sands but also those working in them as well. (4)

  • The Beaver Lake Cree were one of the only tribes from Alberta to endorse a publication in the 2010 Oscar edition of Variety magazine titled “Canada’s AvaTAR Sands”. This title uses wordplay to compare the destruction of first nation territory to the destruction of the fictitious planet belonging to the fictitious race of first nations inspired aliens in James Cameron’s Avatar. (2)

  • The nature of this comparison is very allegorical for how first nations people are portrayed in the media, often being romanticized as noble and spiritual yet primitive tribes. (2)

  • Despite being largely opposed to the Oil/Tar sands, first nations leaders have often shown little cooperation with other groups campaigning against the development. (2)


      These opinions will be used to make comparisons between the media portrayal of aboriginals and the reality of the situation.  This will aid in discussing climate change and the oil sands from a more informed position.


  • The fear the first nations people have for trusting outsiders is somewhat justified. Of course everybody is aware of how the first nations originally has their land taken from them by European settlers, but similar actions have been taken by the government as of late, usually when aboriginal reserves house something of value to the government such as oil or timber. (5)

  • Because of this reporters seldom set foot on reserves and are often ejected when they attempt to do so. As a result, mainstream media has very little resources for reporting on politics within the reserves, leaving most Canadians severely uneducated on first nation struggles. (5)

  • This is because for the large part tribes do not like outside reporters coming onto reserves to document and likely misinterpret their forms of governance. (5)

  • Under normal conditions, Canadians hear very little about the lives and politics of first nations people on reserves. (5)