AIDS in Aboriginal People from Canada

August 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Blogging, Health | Leave a comment
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A very interesting post from the blog “Back on this side of the door“. The author, Meghan J. Ward, explains some facts about the situation of the AIDS in Canada:

As I take a break from writing an essay for AIDS, Power and Poverty, the last of the assignments I will ever write for my minor in International Development Studies, I can’t help but want to express to you something that has really convicted me. As many of you know, I am an active advocate for raising awareness and funds for HIV-related issues in Africa. However, I recently became convicted of my lack of personal knowledge about issues with HIV in Canada. While HIV rates are increasing on the whole within Canada, research led me to an interest in Canada’s First Nations populations, a sector of Canadian society that has already been ravaged by high suicide rates, unemployment rates, a lack of adequate housing, and alcoholism, to name only a few. Is this the Canada you know?

To give you some data that I am currently using for my paper, Aboriginal groups make up approximately 3.3% of the total population of Canada, however, they represent 5-8 percent of people currently living with HIV in Canada (2,3). Furthermore, in 2002, aboriginal people comprised 6-12 percent of the new infections found in Canada (2). The Assembly of First Nations projects that infections in the aboriginal community actually represents 16% of new infections (1). Faced with these numbers one finds a dire situation occurring in the First Nations communities in Canada. But these are only numbers, and numbers are not completely accurate, so let us remember that there are people behind the statistics who feel and think and emote just like everyone else.

As the 2006 World AIDS Day approached, Dr. Pierre Duplessis, Secretary-General of the Canadian Red Cross, brought the news about HIV back into focus in the Canadian context:

“It is a devastating reality that Canadian aboriginal communities are plagued by HIV infection rates mirroring some of those in developing countries. We are responding to this global pandemic around the world and see the effects of it on communities around the world, but we are also deeply concerned about our on First Nations communities in Canada.” (4)

Likewise, I am deeply concerned about our First Nations communities and so I am extending that concern to you, as awareness is the first step to taking serious action in the face of such devastation. That is the sole purpose of this entry – maybe you knew all this already, but if you did not, now you do. What you will do with that knowledge is up to you.

(1) AFN. (n.d.). Fact Sheet: The Reality for First Nations in Canada. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

(2) Health Canada. (2006). First Nations and Inuit Health: HIV and AIDS. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

(3) PHAC. (2003). HIV/AIDS Among Aboriginal Persons in Canada: A Continuing Concern. Retrieved February 27,2007, from click here.

(4) Canadian Red Cross. (November 28, 2006). Canadian Red Cross calls for awareness of HIV rates among First Nations. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2007

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Say it right: clarifying terminology

July 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Naming | 4 Comments
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Thanks again to Survival I found a small compilation of terminology related to indigenous peoples. Given the fact that pejorative terms have already been used for years, it is important to show respect using the right words:

There are a huge variety of terms used to describe the peoples most commonly called ‘tribal people’ or ‘indigenous people’. All of them are problematic; none are entirely satisfactory:

Some general terms

Tribe: means a distinct population, relatively small in number, with a common language and culture, dependent on their land for their livelihood, and not assimilated into the national society. This is perhaps the term most readily understood and used by the general public, and for that reason is commonly used by Survival (as in the expression ‘tribal peoples’). Many anthropologists dislike the term, believing it evokes the colonial era. Some English-speaking indigenous people, especially more politically active Indians in North America, also dislike it. However, many tribal peoples themselves use it. For example, almost all American Indians use the word ‘tribe’ to describe themselves to others, eg ‘the White Mountain Apache Tribe’, or the ‘Northern Arapaho Tribe’. Although nearly all tribal peoples are also indigenous, not all are: for example, many of the Thai hill tribes are not indigenous to the areas where they now live, having settled there relatively recently.

Native: the words ‘native’,’ aboriginal’, ‘autochthonous’ and ‘indigenous’ are virtually synonymous; in this context they mean a people who are originally from the area in which they still live. In other words, they have not arrived from somewhere else, but to all intents and purposes have developed in the land which is their ancestral territory. (Of course, according to current theories of human evolution, homo sapiens first evolved in Africa and subsequently emigrated to populate the globe, but as this is thought to have happened around 60,000 years ago, its practical ramifications can be ignored.) The terms ‘native people’ in Canada, and ‘native Americans’ in the USA, are perfectly acceptable in those countries, but the use of the English word ‘native’ elsewhere has rather colonial connotations, particularly in Africa, and should therefore be avoided if possible. ‘Nativos’ in Spanish has similar connotations in many South American countries (but not all).

Aboriginal: most commonly used in Australia, where it is slightly preferred (by some Aboriginal organisations) to the term ‘Aborigine’, although both are in common usage. The Spanish word ‘aborígen’ is common and perfectly acceptable in Argentina to describe that country’s indigenous people, though it is little used elsewhere in South America.

Indigenous: this is perhaps the term most often used by specialists and academics, although it is not in such common usage amongst the general public. Not all indigenous people are tribal: the Quechua and Aymara Indians of the Andes, for example, form what could best be described as an indigenous peasantry, being the majority rural, agrarian population in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and often well integrated into the national economy. The Spanish term ‘pueblos indígenas’ is regularly used throughout Latin America and is perfectly acceptable (whereas pueblos tribales is neither).

Autochthonous: apart from in India, this is hardly used in English. In French, the term ‘peuples autochtones’ is widespread in academic debate, though not common elsewhere.

Some place-specific terms:

Indian: applies in this context only to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although some, particularly in the academic world, may worry that it has disparaging overtones, it is very commonly used by the people themselves. Almost all North American Indians will use the word perfectly happily to describe themselves (obviously, there are exceptions). In the USA, some prefer it to ‘native American’, as they feel the latter implies they are simply another national minority like African Americans or Hispanic Americans, rather than people who lived in that land before the state of America was created. For Spanish usage, the word ‘indio’ generally (though not universally) has derogatory connotations, although some urbanised Indians in the Andes have reclaimed the term. The Portuguese word ‘indio’ is not derogatory in Brazil, where it is commonly used by Indians and their supporters.

Red Indian: almost never used by the people themselves, it now has racist overtones and is best avoided.

Amerindian: a term that has now fallen out of use, though it is still the word most often used in Guyana to describe that country’s indigenous people (‘Indian’ is not used there, as a large part of the national population is originally from India).

First nations: a phrase that has developed in Canada to describe that country’s indigenous people. It is not used elsewhere.

Well, there is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a beginning. I may look the terms up in some dictionaries, but that will be for another day post.

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