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Identity and Indigenous People


Cultural identity is important in the prevention of mental illnesses and better adaptation to life. Looking at the relationship between cultural integrity and emotional wellbeing could illuminate endeavors to improve the psychological health of indigenous people, who have frequently encountered various adverse life occasions and stressors. Native people groups from around the globe frequently outline the significance of cultural identity inside social statutes. Recognizing someone as a part of the aboriginal group often poses many risks such as discrimination and social isolation. At the same time, the denial of ethnic identity might bring the unacceptance of oneself and losing’s own history.

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The Origin of Aboriginals’ Identification

Historically, the central government tried narrowing the criteria for defining people as ‘aboriginals’ to diminish the official number of Indians. The first Indian Act was made as a method of eliminating Indigenous people from the land to make more space for pilgrims closer to the end of the 19th century (Fast et al. 153). In 1876, the Government of Canada made the initial official description of an Indian representative in the Indian Act of 1876 (Fast et al. 153). In accordance with it, any male individual of Indian blood who was perceived to be affiliated with a specific tribe could be identified as aboriginals. Additionally, any offspring of such person and any woman who is or was legally married to such individual were given this status (Fast et al. 153). These definitions were constructed without the involvement of Indigenous people and with the hidden objective of qualifying only small groups of individuals as eligible for Indian status and, subsequently, for property claims.

As a result of this discretionary task and denial of Indigenous character by the Canadian governments, official definitions only depend on lineage and marriage. They overlook inquiries of identity, individual qualities, culture, and local area meanings of being an aboriginal (Lawrence, 203). An individual can have a status of an Indian and almost no contact with an original nation. At the same time, there are those, especially in northern areas, who communicate in the language and seek after a customary way of life and are not legitimately called Indigenous people (Fast et al. 153). In brief, the Indian Act had and still has an expansive ability to subjectively relegate status and to eradicate it judging from ethnic guidelines or gender. This way, the authority increased the level of Indians’ assimilation in the public.

Discrimination against Canadian Aboriginals

The protection of culture needs to be a modern common practice due to the unjust setting of status and identity by the board of the Canadian government and its organizations, which are difficult to comprehend. After the Depression and World War II, social mindfulness emerged in Canada (Fast et al. 153). Following these events, the overall population started to emphasize the way aboriginal people were treated, particularly considering their huge commitments in both wars.

In the present day, society is overflowing with stories about the public authority financing private schools, the maltreatments, the high passing rate, and the unequal conditions for Indians in Canada. A Special Joint Committee was founded by the end of World War II to investigate the country’s strategies with respect to Indians and the administration of Indian Affairs (Leroux 13). In spite of the suggestions of the Committee, Indians’ situation did not improve under the Indian Act 1951 (Leroux 15). It was at that period that the Act provided a central registry for everybody who was under its protection.

The Importance of Cultural Identity

Being an indigenous individual brings complexities and contemplations such as stereotyping and difficulty finding a workplace. The additional layers of identity can incorporate but are not restricted to an individual’s status, country of citizenship, family, membership in certain organizations, and ancestral chamber or office (Leroux 10). Identity is also determined by the fact whether they live in their home local area or have relocated to a metropolitan community (Leroux 10). Community-based methodologies present a promising system to help address the problem of Indigenous youth’s depression and suicide.

Currently, the use of culture as treatment proposes one of the numerous novel and assorted methodologies for Indigenous people to work with traumas and improve their general wellbeing. Under this structure, Indigenous youth suicide is recognized as a local area emergency requiring social change through cultural recovery. This practice accentuates the meaning of interconnectedness in recuperating and the renewal of conventional qualities to recover local area health (Barker et al. 209). There are various markers that Indigenous people’s identity is inseparably associated with wellbeing.

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It seems that rejecting the ancestral identity often brings negative consequences. It was discovered that Indigenous people had suicidal rates surpassing the rate among the rest of the population by an 800-crease (Barker et al. 209). Studies recommend that those networks with various positive social markers, including self-administration, language, settled land claims, schooling, medical care, social offices, and foundation, experience lower suicidal rates than those without (Barker et al. 210). The investigations on aboriginal communities found that in places where roughly 50% of individuals talked in any level of the Indigenous language, there was almost no occurrence of suicides (Barker et al. 209). Mediations are in progress that advance Indigenous identity and connectedness as a method for treating and decreasing mental problems.

Thoughts of social connectedness encouraged through local area organizations and social exercises are perceived to be a key approach in making sure that there is support for citizens’ identity. The removal and forced assimilation of aboriginal Canadians over history are regularly connected to current states of social avoidance, destitution, and local area crime rate (Shepherd et al. 111). Detainees of Indigenous origin frequently present the profiles which involve these conditions (Shepherd et al. 112). Cultural loss, specifically the difficulty to determine identity, is one of the main causes of persistent displeasure in Indian prisoners (Shepherd et al. 112). Moreover, the approaches which try to treat substance use among Indigenous populaces uncovered that practically 50% of Indigenous youngsters and more than one-third of adolescents did not relate to a faction, ancestral, or language gathering (Tam et al. 257). Also, about 33% of Indians who were under 16 did not recognize their conventional countries (Shepherd et al. 116). Regardless, supporting the advancement of culturally based instruments and engagement in traditional gatherings are offered as addictions treatment and prevention of crime for Indigenous individuals.


In conclusion, identity is a critical segment of social and mental prosperity and an ideal condition for maintaining a balanced life. Connection to the culture by cooperating in customary practices, closely communicating with family, and strengthening the relationship with family is thought to support a strong aboriginal identity. Unfortunately, ancestral distancing is not uncommon among the overall Indigenous people, and there is a need for the engagement of governmental organizations.


Barker, Brittany, et al. “Reclaiming Indigenous Identities: Culture as Strength against Suicide among Indigenous Youth in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 2, 2017, pp. 208–210. Web.

Fast, Elizabeth, et al. “Incorporating Diverse Understandings of Indigenous Identity: Toward a Broader Definition of Cultural Safety for Urban Indigenous Youth.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, vol. 13, no. 3, 2017, pp. 152–160. Web.

Leroux, Darryl. Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity. University of Manitoba Press, 2019.

Shepherd, Stephane M., et al. “Inter-Relationships Among Cultural Identity, Discrimination, Distress, Agency, and Safety Among Indigenous People in Custody.” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, vol. 17, no. 2, 2018, pp. 111–121. Web.

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Tam, Benita Y., et al. “Indigenous Families: Who Do You Call Family?” Journal of Family Studies, vol. 23, no. 3, 2016, pp. 243–259. Web.

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