Indigenous people of Canada

Exact dates and routes of peopling of Americas including Canada is subject of instance debate. Genetic and archaeological evidence indicate that continents where humans migrated last are without doubt north and South America. Falling sea levels during Wisconsin glaciation allowed people to cross Bering land bridge to reach northwest North America from Siberia. Laurentide ice sheet confined people to Alaska and Yukon for thousands of years. About 16000 years ago people could finally move into Canada in the aftermath of glacial melt. Earliest Paleo-Indian sites in Canada are Bluefish caves, Haida Gwaii islands and Old crow flats. Lithic flake stone tools and remains of gigantic butchered mammals were left behind by hunter-gatherers of this particular period.

About 10000 years ago climatic conditions of North America stabilised. Receding of glacial ice sheets caused creation of lakes of melt water. This was the beginning of archaic period. Archaic period is divided into three parts – early archaic period (10000-8000 BP), middle archaic period (8000-6000 BP) and late archaic period (6000-3000 BP). Although most population groups were still continuing with mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle but some individual groups had started focusing on locally available resources. This led to regional distinctions.

Woodland cultural period that flourished between 2000 BC and 1000 AD is known for introduction of pottery. This distinguishes woodland culture from previous archaic culture. This culture was flourishing in Ontario, Quebec and maritime regions. Oldest pottery excavated in Canada till date was made by laurentian-related people in Ontario.

Indigenous culture Hopewell tradition flourishing along American rivers between 300 BC and 500 AD expressed itself in Canada as well. Hopewell exchange system connected cultures and societies to people residing on Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Canadian expression of Hopewell tradition covers Laurel complexes, Saugeen and Point peninsula.

Eastern woodland areas were home to Algonquian and Iroquoian speaking people. Algonquian language is native to plains of Montano or the western plateau of Idaho and moved eastward with migrants. It eventually spread in different manifestations from Hudson bay to Nova scotia in the east and tidewater region of Virginia far south.

Eastern Algonquian language speakers included Mi’kmaq and Abenaki residing in maritime region of Canada. Ojibwa and other Anishinaabemowin speakers still retain oral tradition of their migration to their lands around western and central great lakes from the sea. Anishinaabemowin language in from Algonquian language family.

Around 1000 AD five nations of Iroquois speaking people existed in northern New York, whose influence extended to modern south Ontario and Montreal region of modern Quebec. As per the oral tradition, Iroquois confederacy was formed in 1142 AD. Cree people speaking plain Cree language closely related to central Algonquian language resided in Great Plains and depended on herds of bison for food and other needs.

People speaking Na-Dene languages resided to the northwest. Na-Dene language group is linked by some to Yeniseian languages of Siberia. People speaking languages from Salishan language group resided in interiors of British Columbia. Valleys and inlets of British Columbia coast sheltered large distinct population such as Nuu-chah-nulth, Haida and Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. Paleo-Eskimos known as dorset people resided in arctic archipelago.

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