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Appendix C: Myth or Fact?
Indigenous Peoples never had a written language. That’s a myth! European and Asian writing systems are one way of transmitting information in visual symbols, but there are others. Indigenous Peoples have used symbols and a variety of markings to communicate and tell a story. Totem poles, petroglyphs, and pictographs are examples of visual language.
Indigenous Peoples do not pay any taxes. That’s a myth! All Indigenous Peoples are required to pay taxes like all other Canadians. This includes all income, federal, provincial, and municipal taxes, as well as taxes for goods and services bought off reserve.The only exceptions are for people recognized by the federal government as “Status Indians.” They do not have to pay:
income tax if they earn 60 per cent of their income on a reserve
provincial or federal sales tax if they purchase goods or services on reserve or have them delivered to the reserve
Everything that happened to Indigenous Peoples “happened so long ago that they should just get over it.” That’s a myth! Indigenous Peoples are still dealing with the effects of colonization. Considering that Indigenous Peoples were almost eliminated by introduced diseases from settlers, those who were resilient and survived now experience ongoing impacts on their quality of life, identity, cultural expression, and traditional practice. For example, the Indian Act still controls many aspects of First Nations people’s lives and limits the ability for First Nation communities to self-govern. Until 1951, it was illegal for First Nations people to gather in groups of more than three, leave a reserve without a pass, hire a lawyer, own property, or practise their culture. It has only been since 1982, with the amendment to the Constitution, that the legal status of First Nations women was no longer decided by who they married. The last residential school in B.C. closed in 1984, so even those who did not attend the schools still suffer from the ongoing legacy of pain, loss, and racism.
Indigenous Peoples are all the same.That’s a myth! Indigenous Peoples and communities across Canada are very diverse in language, culture, and traditions. There are over 200 First Nation communities across B.C. They speak more than 36 distinct languages. In the 2016 Census, 270,000 people in B.C. self-identified as First Nation, Métis, or Inuit. This number does not include First Nations people on reserve, as many reserves were not included in the census. Depending on where you are in the province, cultural practices and traditions will differ from one another.
Indigenous cultures were very primitive. That’s a myth! Indigenous Peoples have complex cultures and systems of governance, commerce, trade, and agriculture that thrived for thousands of years before settler contact. Even though numerous peace treaties were established in eastern and central Canada, the settler government would not recognize or validate these strong systems and approaches. For instance, B.C.’s Governor James Douglas negotiated agreements with First Nation communities on Vancouver Island, but subsequent governors nullified these agreements.
Indigenous Peoples get free university education and free housing. That’s a myth! Some First Nations people are eligible for post-secondary education funds, if they are a Status Indian and if their First Nation community has enough federally allocated money to fund all or part of their post-secondary education. Many Indigenous people receive no help from their communities or the government when pursuing post-secondary education. As for free housing, each First Nation negotiates with the federal government to access funding to build homes on reserve, and the First Nation then secures mortgages for the homes. Tenants make payments to the First Nation to repay the mortgage. If a tenant does get subsidized help with their housing, this is because they have a special low-income status. Even if a tenant pays off the mortgage, the house is not in their name and they cannot sell it.
Indigenous Peoples have more problems with addiction and crime than other people. That’s a myth! As a population, Indigenous people are more likely to face addictions and are over-represented in the criminal justice system, but this is not because they are more criminally inclined or because their bodies are more susceptible to addictions (though this was thought to be the case by scientists and many people for decades). The reasons for the increased likelihood of addictions and over-representation in the criminal justice system are multiple and result from a combination of influences related to colonization. These include lack of recognition of their cultures, traditions, and languages; government policies; racism, discrimination, and stereotyping; breakdown in family structure; poverty; isolation; and residential schools, cycles of dysfunction, and intergenerational trauma. In large cities, there are more police officers in poor neighbourhoods. If Indigenous people are poorer than most Canadians (and statistically they are), then they are more likely to come into contact with police officers or the criminal justice system. In addition, once in the criminal system, Indigenous people face further discrimination as a result of lack of understanding and cultural differences that lead to institutional bias and racism. They are therefore more likely to be convicted and given longer sentences.
Indigenous youth were not affected by residential schools or colonization. That’s a myth! Colonization has had a lasting effect on Indigenous communities, including breakdown of the family structure, poverty, depression, addictions, intergenerational trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Indigenous youth must overcome many social and economic barriers in order to break this harmful cycle. Many Indigenous people continue to experience racism – sometimes direct and intentional and sometimes in the form of uninformed opinions, misunderstandings, and prejudice. This affects their ability to live healthy and productive lives.
Indigenous Peoples don’t want to get along with the government and be a part of Canada. That’s a myth! Indigenous Peoples are already part of Canada and want the federal government to recognize their autonomy and rights as distinct peoples, as stated in the Constitution. Indigenous Peoples have been unfairly treated in Canada – from having their lands and territories unlawfully taken to government decisions made on their behalf without consultation.