Indigenous Cultures of British Columbia

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
ANTH 1120
Indigenous Cultures of British Columbia
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours

Lecture: 4 hrs. per week

Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

  • Lectures
  • Films, videos and slide presentations
  • Small and Large Group Discussion
  • Guest Speakers
Course Description
This course provides an overview of indigenous cultures in British Columbia, from earliest occupation of the region to contemporary issues affecting First Nations. Students will learn about the cultural diversity and distinctiveness of cultures throughout the province, including their economies, social organization, political formations, and spiritual beliefs. Particular attention will be given to the traditional cultures prior to colonialism, yet we also address how indigenous peoples have adapted and persisted in their traditions to the present day, despite the challenges faced since the onset of colonialism.
Course Content

1. Overview of First Nations Cultures

  • First Nations’ bands, population, languages, names
  • Anthropological approaches to indigenous societies

2. Origins of Peoples in B.C.

  • Initial Occupation of the New World and B.C.
  • Archaeological Overview of Over 12,000 years
  • Oral Histories and Origin Stories

3. The Avenues of Cultural Knowledge - A History

  • Early Cultural Encounters (explorers, early traders, missionaries)
  • History of Anthropological Study
  • Oral Traditions

4. Northern Northwest Coast Cultures (Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian)
5. Central Coast Cultures (Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuxalk)
5. West Coast Cultures (Nuu-chah-nulth)
6. South Coast Cultures (Coast Salish)
7. Mid-Fraser Canyon Cultures (Nlaka’pamux, St'át'imc)
8. Interior Plateau Cultures (Secwempemc, Okanagan, Ktunaxa)
9. Northeast Interior Cultures (Tsil’qotin, Tahltan, Dene)
10. Cultural Themes Throughout the Course

  • Environmental and Ecological Context
  • Economy and Subsistence Methods
  • Complex Hunter-Gatherer-Fishers
  • Annual Movements from Villages to Seasonal Camps
  • Social Organization (Nobles, Commoners, Slaves)
  • Division of Labour and Specializations (Chiefs, Shamans, Healers, Warriors, Artisans, Weavers, Dancers)
  • Political Organization (Decision-Making, Punishment, Dispute Arbitration)
  • The Potlatch (Status, Gifting, Redistribution, Public Accounting)
  • Warfare and Conflict Resolution (Weaponry, Forts, Peace Ceremonies)
  • Religious and Spiritual Beliefs and Practices (Spirit Powers, Totems, Shamanism, Rituals, Ceremonies)
  • Oral Histories (Legends, Lineages, Ancestral Names, Differences with Written Histories)
  • Architecture (Plankhouses, Pithouses, Refuges)
  • Art (Totem Poles, House Panels, Symbols)

11. Changes and Challenges After Colonialism

  • History of early contact with Europeans and B.C. First Nations
  • Early Alterations and Adaptations of Traditional Cultures
  • Effects of Population Decline from Diseases
  • Reserve Allotments and the Beginnings of Indian administration and the Indian Act

12. Current Issues

  • Unceded Territories, Land Claims, and Contemporary Treaty Making
  • Movements towards Indigenous Self-Government
  • History of Indigenous Resistance
  • Indigenous Cultural Revitalization
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, a student should be conversant in:
1. The major indigenous groups of British Columbia, their general distribution and relationship to other groups by language or lifeway.
2. Traditional cultural practices (including economy, social organizations, architecture and other aspects) for each of the major cultural regions of British Columbia.
3. The traditional cultural beliefs about proper relationships among peoples, the environment, and the spirit world.
4. The challenges indigenous groups faced for their cultural beliefs and practices after European contact and settlement, and their responses and engagement with the development of British Columbia and Canada.
5. Historic federal policies of native administration and residential schools in Canada, and how these continue to have lasting effects in their restriction of First Nations culture.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Evaluation Policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.
An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Mid-Term Exam  25%
Reading Assessments  15%
Final Exam  25%
Research Essay     30%
Attendance & Participation      5%
Total 100%


Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving human subjects.

Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:

  • Muckle, Robert J. (2014). The First Nations of British Columbia. Third Edition. UBC Press, Vancouver. 


Supplemental Text examples:  

  • Elsey, Christine (2012) The Poetics of Land and Identity among British Columbia Indigenous Peoples.  Fernwood Publishing, Black Point, Nova Scotia.
  • Ignace, Marianne, and Ronald Ignace (2017) Secwépemc People, Land and Laws:  Yerí7 re Stsq’e’s-kucw. McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal.


Other Readings as Assigned.