Indigenous Cultures of Canada

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
ANTH 1160
Indigenous Cultures of Canada
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Contact Hours

Lecture: 4 hours/week


Hybrid: 2 hours/week in class; 2 hours/week online


Fully online

Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

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 is a survey of Indigenous cultures of Canada, past and present, from the Atlantic provinces to the Northwest Coast and the south-central Plains to northern Arctic. Students will learn about the earliest migrations to North America, from both archaeological histories and oral traditions. The main focus concerns traditional lifeways, including economies, social relations, political organizations, spiritual beliefs, arts, and more. Throughout, a focus will be on 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 Peoples of Canada

  • First Nations, Inuit, and Métis
  • Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Indigenous Cultures

2. Origins 

  • Origins Through Creation Myths and Oral Histories
  • Initial Migration to the New World: Archaeological Evidence

3. Cultures:

  • Atlantic Coast Cultures: Beothuk and Mi’kmaq
  • Iroquoian Cultures of the Eastern Woodlands (Iroquois/Haudensonee, Huron, Neutral)
  • Algonquian Cultures of the Eastern Woodlands (Cree, Ojibwe)
  • Plains Cultures (Blackfoot, Dakota, Plains Cree)
  • Plateau Cultures (Secwempemc, Okanagan, Ktunaxa)
  • Western and Eastern Subarctic Cultures (Athapaskans, Innu)
  • The Inuit of the Arctic
  • Métis Cultures of the Plains

4. Cultural Themes:

  • Environmental and Ecological Contexts
  • Economy and Subsistence Methods
  • Social Organization (Kinship, Community Relations)
  • Political Organization (Decision-Making, Councils, Leadership)
  • Warfare and Conflict Resolution 
  • Religious and Spiritual Beliefs and Practices
  • Oral Histories (Creation Myths, Legends, Chronicles)
  • Architecture (Wigwams, Tipis, Pithouses, Plankhouses)
  • Art (Symbols, Rock Art, Totem Poles)

5.  Culture Change After Colonial Contact and Settlement:

  • History of Contacts Between Europeans and First Peoples
  • Post-Contact Alterations and Adaptations of Traditional Cultures
  • Effects of Population Decline from Diseases
  • Reserve Allotments, the Indian Act, and Residential Schools.

6. Contemporary Issues

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

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be conversant in:

1. The major indigenous cultural areas of Canada, including 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 Canada.
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 Canada.
5. Historic federal policies of administration, including residential schools in Canada, and how these continue to have restrictions upon indigenous cultures with lasting effects.

Means of Assessment

The evaluation will be based on course objectives and carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. An example of an 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 Douglas College policies on ethical conduct for research involving human subjects.


Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:

  • McMillan, Alan D., and Eldon Yellowhorn (2004) First Peoples of Canada (3rd ed.). Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver.
  • Wilson, C. Roderick, and Christopher Fletcher, editors (2013) Native Peoples: The Canadian Experience. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.