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About Northwest Territories

Culture

Culture is defined as learned or acquired ideas, beliefs, and knowledge that are shared by many people. In the Northwest Territories there are two primary cultures: indigenous and Canadian. Indigenous culture comes from the nomadic hunting and fishing life of indigenous people before the arrival of Europeans. Canadian culture has its roots in western civilization, but its basic characteristics stem from Canada’s history, geography, and market economy.

During the fur trade with Europeans in the 19th century, indigenous people came into contact with missionaries, and this contact caused important changes in the indigenous culture. However, the most dramatic cultural adjustment began after indigenous peoples moved into settlements, which were typically fur-trading posts with no economic base. The first generation of people born and raised in settlements had difficulty adjusting. Sent to schools rather than to the trap lines, young boys and girls were cut off from their parents’ culture, and most were unable to find employment in their settlements. As they became more dependent on welfare in the 1960s, social problems arose, including high rates of alcoholism, family violence, and suicide. These problems continue to plague northern settlements. Indigenous languages were among the casualties of the rapid social change; as people began to speak English, indigenous languages fell into disuse. Not all changes were negative, however.

By the 1970s positive signs of cultural change appeared with the emergence of indigenous leaders. They demanded land claim settlements and a new political territory called Denendeh Territories. While the Dene leaders failed to achieve a political union of their tribes, two Dene tribes—the Gwich’in and the Sahtu—have achieved land claims agreements.

The indigenous peoples also experienced an increase in indigenous pride. Modern land claims agreements have allowed indigenous peoples to refocus their energies and their culture. One example of this is the native cultural activities, such as the Arctic Winter Games. The Arctic Winter Games feature a variety of Canadian and traditional indigenous games and sports. Traditional games are based on feats of strength and agility. The games are held every two years and bring together athletes from other northern places, including Alaska and Greenland.

used recourses :  Encyclopedia Article Center from Encarta