You know how much I hate how reporters and editors – especially editors because they should know better – misuse, abuse and confuse the terms for Indigenous peoples in Canada. I also know that YOU know what I’m talking about – if only because I rant each time another idiotic example rises above my tolerance threshold. To wit, I now submit for your consideration the following:
Firth, a Gwich’in First Nation aboriginal, was born in Aklavik, N.W.T. — located only about 50 kilometres south of the Beaufort Sea — while Hartley was born in Edmonton, growing up in Vancouver.
Read that sentence again. Go ahead. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s the train wreck of terms the reporter (or the editor) hang around poor Shirley Firth’s neck. What the hell did Shirley Firth ever do to that reporter (or editor)?
Apparently, Firth is “a Gwich’in.” Great. Wonderful. That’s what I like. Proper identification of her Indigenous nationality. That SPECIFIC piece of information tells me that Firth is from northern Yukon or Northwest Territories. In this case, from Aklavik in the Mackenzie Delta. Right on. If she were described as “Mi’kmaq,” I would place her origin in the Atlantic provinces. But I’m educated, unlike the majority of Canadians who need to learn more about the Indigenous population on this continent.
So this is a good start. Be specific with Indigenous nationalities.
But then the reporter (or editor) in the example above dips into the “Baggi di Stupidus” (aka the Bag of Stupid Terms”).
The writer (or editor) tacks on the term “First Nation.” This means that Firth is classified by that monument to stupidity – the Department of Indian Affairs – as a “status Indian.” The added term – “First Nation” – is redundant because we already know she’s Gwich’in.
I am Mohawk. You don’t need anything else because that says it all.
Or could it be that the reporter (or editor) is describing this individual as “a reserve,” or “First Nation.” But that would be really stupid because she can’t be a piece of land called a “reserve.” Shirley Firth is a single biological entity called a person; a human being, a sentient carbon-based lifeform.
Not enough irrationality? Well, they dig into the “Baggi di Stupidus” once more… et voila! The writer (or editor) then pins the “aboriginal” tail on this donkey.
Let’s confuse readers, and make the Shmohawk’s head twist completely around, with this additional bit of mentus corruptus because the term “aboriginal” is a collective term that groups “Indians, Métis and Inuit” under one heading, according to the Canadian Constitution Act (1982). That’s right. It should not be applied to any one of those categories or races individually.
Do NOT apply “aboriginal” to the Inuit by themselves.
If you’re dealing only with Métis, do NOT refer to them as “aboriginal.”
If you are writing about a woman called Shirley Firth, Gwich’in is all you need.
C’est quoi la probleme, you wonder? Wouldn’t it be confusing if a Canadian journalist went to Europe and used terms like “European,” “Scottish,” “Italian” or “Greek” as interchangeable terms and completely at random? Isn’t that exactly what so many Canadian journalists do with terms that describe Indigenous peoples here?