Parks Canada Banner
 Franšais Contact Us Help Search Canada Site
 About the Parks Canada Agency National Parks of Canada National Historic Sites of Canada National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada Cultural Heritage
Natural Heritage
Parks Canada Home
Enter a keyword:

An Approach to Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes


Guidelines for Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes

What principles could be used for both suggesting and evaluating Aboriginal cultural landscapes for possible national designation?

The following guidelines are proposed for the HSMBC's future examination of the national significance of Aboriginal cultural landscapes.

1. The long associated Aboriginal group or groups have participated in the identification of the place and its significance, concur in the selection of the place to commemorate their culture, and support designation.

Inukshuk, tepees and people.
Paallir.miut at Arvia'juaq, Nunavut.
© Parks Canada / Archaeological Services Branch / Lyle Henderson / 1994.

This guideline derives from the HSMBC's consistent direction since 1990 that Aboriginal peoples will be consulted, involved and participate in the identification of frameworks and sites related to their history. It is consistent with the established consultation process for Aboriginal heritage sites (as described in Federal Archaeology Office 1998a, 17-18) and the Statement of Principles and Best Practices for Commemorating Aboriginal History, draft 3 (Federal Archaeology Office 1998c, item 2).

It is likewise consistent with recommendation 1.7.2 of the Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. It can conform with the comparative or contextual framework that the Board chooses for evaluation, such as the proposed traditional territory of an Aboriginal group or First Nation. (Federal Archaeology Office 1998a, 14 and 21)

2. Spiritual, cultural, economic, social and environmental aspects of the group's association with the identified place, including continuity and traditions, illustrate its historical significance.

Animal hide tent with water and mountains in distance.
Niortoq's tent, Kazan River, Northwest Territories.
© National Archives of Canada / A.E. Porsild / PA 101013, no date.

The guideline focusses on the identification of national historic significance through the associated group's long attachment to the territory, its enduring use and activities, its social and kinship relationships, its intimate knowledge of the area, and its spiritual affiliations with it.

3. The interrelated cultural and natural attributes of the identified place make it a significant cultural landscape.
Stone chimney and cabin remains at the abandoned Dogrib village known as Nidzik'a K'ogolaa
Stone chimney and cabin remains at the abandoned Dogrib village known as Nidzik'a K'ogolaa, along Idaà Trail, Northwest Territories.
© Parks Canada / T.D. Andrews / 1991.

This guideline recognizes the integrated nature of Aboriginal relationship to place, including the inseparability of cultural and natural values. Identified places, which will likely be of widely diverse types, will illustrate this core interrelationship of cultural and natural forces.

Tangible evidences may be largely absent, with the attributes rooted primarily in oral and spiritual traditions and in activities related to the place. However, there could be tangible attributes; they include natural resources, archaeological sites, graves, material culture, and written or oral records.

The guideline anticipates that the identification will incorporate diverse aspects of the group's association extended over time. The guideline also recognizes such natural components as ecosystem, climate, geology, topography, water, soils, viewsheds, and dominant and culturally significant fauna and flora in the context of the associated Aboriginal people's relationship to the place. The Aboriginal expression of these aspects may occur in animal or other natural metaphors.

The guideline accommodates the geographic and cultural diversity, as well as the individual experiences, of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. (Federal Archaeology Office 1998c, item 2)

4. The cultural and natural attributes that embody the significance of the place are identified through traditional knowledge of the associated Aboriginal group(s).

Boulder outcrop in meadow with trees in distance.
Hatzic Rock, Xá:ytem, National Historic Site, British Columbia.
© Parks Canada / Archaeological Services Branch / David Smyth / 1997

This guideline anticipates that the traditional knowledge, including traditional environmental knowledge, will likely encompass narratives, place names, language, traditional uses, rituals, and behaviour related to the identified place. It recognizes that some knowledge cannot be shared, but available knowledge must be sufficient to demonstrate the significance of the place in the culture of the associated group.

5. The cultural and natural attributes that embody the significance of the place may be additionally comprehended by results of academic scholarship.

Shoreline of ocean-polished bed rock.
Area of archaeological investigations into Dorset Paleo-eskimo habitation, Port au Choix, Newfoundland and Labrador
© Parks Canada / A.Cornellier / H., 1988

This guideline recognizes the contribution that academic scholarship makes to the understanding of place. History, including oral history and ethnohistory, archaeology, anthropology, and environmental sciences are the most likely, but not the only, relevant disciplines.


Last Updated: 2008-10-17 To the top
To the top
Important Notices