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Canadian Aborigins and European Envasion

Introduction

The European invasion of many parts of the world caused tremendous changes that remain up to this moment the norms of the societies. Almost every part of the world can give evidence of the changes that occurred during their first contact with the Europeans. This means all parts of the world starting from Africa to the great Island of Australia round to South America into North America. All these societies had original inhabitants who had a particular way of life that was later changed as a result of the influence of the invading Europeans. Therefore, the European invasion of the aborigine’s way of life had a great impact that completely changed their culture, social structure, political structure, and their religion.

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The first contact between the aborigines and the Europeans is not well established as there are no written sources to prove the insinuations (Roberts, 2006). The first well-written source of contact between the Europeans and the aborigines of Canada was in 1492. This was during the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Despite this, most historians believe that there existed a contract between the aborigines and the Europeans before the arrival of Columbus. This is also insinuated in the traditional aboriginals’ oral literature which gives evidence of contact between the aborigines and the Europeans. Speculations indicate that in 6 Century CE, an Irish monk by the name of Saint Brendan had the first glimpse of the Canadian Coastline. Archeological evidence also indicates that there were Norse settlements in Newfoundland in 1000CE. In the 1480s, there are speculations that English sailors from Bristol visited Canada.

The real first contact between Europeans and the continent of North America that is indicated in the modern reliable sources is that of John Cabot when he set foot on the Maritime Provinces and the shores of Maine. This was in the year 1497.

Impacts of the European invasion

There are several impacts that Europeans had on the lives of the aborigines. Among the most notable is the change in their barter trade system of business. Although the barter system did not get abolished completely, there were notable changes in the types of goods that were traded. This came after the aborigines of Canada started trading on fur with peoples from other regions. On learning the new techniques and other products offered by the foreign traders, the aborigines thus started trading in other goods which transformed their lives to a better state as compared to what they had been trading in initially (Roberts, 2006). After a long trade relationship with the foreigners, the aborigines later felt that the system of trade was being unfair in that it was giving the foreigners an upper hand as they raked in big profits which they took with them to their countries of origin leaving the aborigines impoverished.

The invasion of the Europeans gave the aborigines a completely new perspective of thought towards wealth (Roberts, 2006). Originally, the aborigines were a completely socialist community. They shared everything they had with other families and leaders. This extended even to killing. If after hunting a family made a big kill, they shared it with the whole community. This collective lifestyle intermingled with their nomadic nature made them have no notion of individual wealth. For example, the fur from animals was completely useless. This is because the aborigines could not go carrying around with them hides which could prove heavy during their travels around (nomadic). With the establishment of fur companies in Northern Ontario by the Europeans, the view of the aborigines towards individual wealth completely took a new turn. They started feeling the importance of individual wealth as most of those who started amassing wealth started gaining status and respect in society. With the difference in the wealth status among the individuals, there arose disputes over the hunting grounds and territories. Despite this new approach to wealth, the issue of a collective life did not completely become corroded from the way of life of the aborigines. For example, the issue of wealth distribution still holds water as the members of the society try to distribute wealth during the social ceremony of Powwow where gifts like linen and crafts are given to elders, dancers and drummers, and other members of the society.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the aborigines were structured in the clan system. According to Banai(1988), it was this system of stratification that God gave to human beings to ensure that the community was cemented together with each one having a defined role to play for the social well-being of the community. A good example is the Salteaux (Ojibwe) clan which was classified into seven original clans with each clan having its special role to play. There were the crane (ah-ji-jawk) whose primary role was leaders and chieftains. This role was shared by the Loon (Mahng). The Fish (Gi-goon) was another class of the clan whose role was the clan’s intellectuals and teachers. The role of protectors and medicinal herbs was bestowed on the Bear (Mu-kwa). The Marten (We-bi-she-she’) had their role as the warriors. The deer (We-we-shish-she) were refered to as the gentle people. Finally, the Bird (Be-nays’) was the branch of the clan that were bestowed spiritual leadership.

Choosing of leaders took a new trend after the invasion of the Europeans. As mentioned earlier, in the Ojibwe clan, most leaders came from the society of the Loon and the Crane (Banai, 1988). This was based on the perceived leadership qualities of the clan. It, therefore, meant that leaders could not come from other sub-clans despite their leadership qualities. This trend eventually took a new turn when individual wealth started taking a center stage in the social structure. As wealthier individuals started acquiring reputation and respect, they started getting leadership opportunities. This means that wealth became the determinant of leadership as opposed to the original setup where the sub-clan dictated the choice of the leader.

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Invasion of the aboriginal lives by the Europeans also led to the outcrop of dependency on the Europeans. Originally, the aborigines were a self-sufficient community that relied mostly on nature and the environment (Roberts, 2006). Needs were met through barter trade between themselves and other aboriginal communities. For example, tobacco is viewed as a sacred medicine, the Salteaux clan which didn’t grow tobacco relied on barter trade with the Haudenosaunee. Europeans came with other items like beads, sewing needles, ceramics, axes, guns, iron cooking pots, and many other goods which eventually became an important part of the aboriginals making them unable to govern themselves without the goods from Europe. This made them lose their self-sufficiency.

The use of guns and the escalating demand for furled to the depletion of the animals like the beaver which sustained the hunting nature of the aborigines (Roberts, 2006). This caused disequilibrium on the part of the aborigines as their livelihood depended purely on hunting. This eventually caused them to become total dependants on the government aids. They lost complete self-support being forced to call Queen Victoria, “our Queen Mother.”

Finally, the invasion of Europeans led to an extinction of the original aborigine religion for Christianity (Roberts, 2006). This was caused by the missionaries from the catholic churches that brought with them the teachings of Jesus Christ. Other missionaries came from the protestant churches who wanted to ensure that the aborigines got saved and be delivered from their “evil” spiritual beliefs.

In conclusion, the way of life of the aborigines changed completely after Europeans came into their lives introducing to them their culture and religion. Though the changes may not be termed squarely as bad or as good, an objective conclusion could be that the impact of the Europeans was both negative and positive.

Relationship Between Prophecy and Renewal

The prophecy of the seven fires is one of the religious prophecies that have come to be fulfilled exactly as it was stated. In the prophecy, the prophets gave the aboriginals a path to be followed in which they termed as seven fires. These seven fires have been said to represent eras in time. It is therefore important to note that as each fire dies, there is a beginning of another fire. This means that each fire marked a renewal that led to another fire which also marked another era that marked the beginning of another era. This means that the prophecies were renewals of people to fight on and look forward to the final fire that would bring about peace and brotherhood.

The first fire marks the first step of their journey to peace and brotherhood (7fires 2009). In this prophecy, the people are to leave their houses and follow the Megis sign until they get to an island with the shape of a turtle. On the way to their destiny, they would make villages in seven points but this would not signify the end of the journey until they found a place where food grows on the water. This would be the sign of the end of the journey. If they failed to leave, they would be destroyed by other nations and they would experience much suffering. This first fire is supposed to mark the beginning of the renewal of the lives of these people. According to the prophecy, if they failed to leave, they would be destroyed. Therefore, for them to be renewed, they had to make sure that they followed the prophecies of the seven fires. In the real world, when the prophets came to tell the people to move, many people opposed the move due to the fertility of the land around the seas. These people who failed to move were later destroyed by the first arrival of the light-skinned man. Their families were torn apart making them lose their roots. This means that should the whole society have ignored the prophecy, they would have been destroyed. The prophecy, therefore, marked a move to renewal.

According to the prophecy, the second fire would be recognized because at this point, they will have completely lost their direction (7fires, 2009). The powers of the midwiwin would be lost. Then, there will be born a child whose dream will give direction to the freedom of the people. It is through this dream that the whole community will find the stepping stone to move towards their future. This fire also marks a step of renewal. While the people would be enjoying, camped at the great water point with sweet waters, they would not be contemplating on leaving. But the dreams of a boy will put them back on toss towards the way to peace. The people had moved on what is today’s St. Lawrence River before getting an island of such description. Here, they did ceremonies of purification and waited for the next instructions.

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In the third fire, the Anishabe were destined, according to the prophecies to get the path to their land of destiny (7fires, 2009). They are to go west towards the land where they would see food growing on the water. This third fire marks a renewal of the mind for the journey. It is at this point that they have to continue with the journey towards their destiny. They have to renew their strength and forge ahead. It is at this point that the people of Anishabe meet the first pale skinned people who were the French explorers who were friendly and brought with them gifts like the axes, beads, iron and many other gifts that the people had never seen. It is also at this point that the first pale skinned person from the East wearing the face of death appears and kills the people of Anishabe forcing them to learn his way as he believed that his way was the best. The people do not forget their mission. They have to reach land with food growing on the water and therefore they head west where they eventually come to a place where rice is grown in flooded fields and this is the point where the prophecy was leading them. The land where food grew on water.

The fourth fire is marked by invasion of the pale faced man wearing black coats and carrying black books (7fires, (2009). Although they are impressed by the hospitality of the Anishinabeg people, they still want them to change their ways and follow the ways of the pale faced man otherwise they would fail to follow the path of the soul to the Star Web and join their relatives. Most of the people of Anishinabeg are frightened of missing the opportunity to meet their relatives and therefore they decide to follow the teaching of the pale faced man. This causes a complete discord between the people of Anishinabeg as they are divided into different groups of people. Some are for the people in black coats and those who are completely devoted to the sacred Megis. The conflict rages.

The fifth fire marked the failure of the pale-skinned person to deliver on the promises (7fires, 2009). He, therefore, plunges the native Anishinabeg into poverty. He does by bringing poor-quality stuff in the name of aid. He takes the children of the Anishinabeg into boarding schools away from the parents so that he has the opportunity to teach him the ways of the pale-skinned man and make sure that the child is not accessible to the native stories and teachings which were the real spirit that had led them through all the steps in life as they headed west in search of the promised land. They teach them that the way of the west is the superior way and that they should abandon their traditional teachings.

The sixth fire was the destruction of the circle of traditions (7fires, 2009). The end of the native teachings as children failed to listen to the elders. This marked a period of rebellion as children became poisoned by the propaganda of the pale-skinned man. The pale-skinned man uses racist stories to destroy the understanding of the little children. To the current moment, their still are hindrances to the real teachings through the use of Courts, text books, school history which is formulated to propagate lies, TVs and movies that are bent to portray the image of the pale faced man as superior while it gives a bad image of the native.

The seventh and the final fire is marked by a renewal of strength (7fires, 2009). The fire will be marked by an emergence of a new group of people. These people will have the desire to know where they lost track and as a result, they will try to retrace their path which will lead them to the elders. Most of the elders will be asleep and others will be afraid of saying anything. The the task of the new people will be difficult and they will have to be strong to succeed. If they do not falter on their quest, they will bring a rebirth to the people of anishinabeg. The sacred fires will be lit again.

The whole concept of the seven fires is marked by the theme of renewal. It is evident that failure to move by the people during the first fire could have led to their total destruction and disintegration as witnessed by those who failed to move. Although the pale skinned man brings destruction to the life and culture and the teaching of the people of anishinabeg, they are not pushed down to stop heading to the Promised Land where food grows on water. Eventually they reach the land but the pale-skinned man still focuses to destroy their lives. He brings poverty into the lives of the people and steals the children from their parents to go and teach them rebellion. And also to keep them away from the teachings and stories of the anishinabeg. But renewal is what keeps the people. The seventh fire is the fire of renewal. The new people are focused to get the truth and revive the sacred flames. To find the true teachings that had led them for more than six hundred years to bring them to the Promised Land.

In conclusion, the seven fires’ prophecy was a total renewal affair. The prophecy was meant to give power and hope to the people of Anishinabeg and make them understand that despite what would come their way, they would emerge victoriously. They would emerge triumphantly and rekindle the dwindled flames of the sacred fire.

References

Benton-Banai, Edward. (1988). The Mishomis Book, The Voice of the Ojibway. Wisconsin: Indian Country Communications.

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www.7fires.org. (2009) Prophecy of the seven fires. Web.

Roberts, John. (2006). First Nations, Inuit, and metis people. Edmond Montgomery publication: New York.

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