Children’s Literature and Canadian Aboriginals

Discusses children’s familiarization with Canadian aboriginal peoples through literature.

This paper looks at how the aboriginal peoples of Canada are portrayed in traditional and contemporary literature for children eight to ten years of age. The paper discusses the dynamics of prejudice and stereotyping as well as the ignorance of aboriginal diversity, and explores how traditional stories and story-telling can impart native values. The paper demonstrates how children’s literature offers access to accurate conceptions of Native people and are a departure from the tendency to ‘patheticize’ the Canadian native. The paper asserts that the teacher who introduces Native culture thoroughly to primary school students stands to avoid many evils of misinterpretation, while instilling some genuine interest in Native cultures.
Children who live in Canadian urban centers are often familiar with a very multicultural reality. The city of Toronto contains at least 130 recognized ethnic communities. However, particularities are not very often pointed to in discussions of Aboriginal people who happen to live in the city, as much as they can reflect important differences of culture and origin. The generic labels of Native, First Nations or Aboriginal, encourage conceptual laziness in their implication of a people that can be recognized by way of assorted cultural and physical markers. There are far fewer opportunities to Native society’s broad socio-economic and educational range, nor occasional animosity that crops up involving one group in relation to another, nor the differences of original environment and territory which have played such important parts in shaping what are generally, regional Native cultures.