Each year Canadians from coast to coast to coast set aside June 21 as a day to recognize and celebrate Aboriginal culture and the contributions Aboriginal people have made to the country. But how many of us are aware of just how extensive those contributions have been?
Luckily, there is no shortage of information about the many things that are part of our every day lives that had their origins with our Aboriginal ancestors.
The obvious ones are listed-the canoe, the snowshoe, tipis, moccasins and lacrosse. But did you know the comb was an Aboriginal invention? Or the screw top jar? Or petroleum jelly? How about lawn darts?
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has a quiz on it's National Aboriginal Day site that will test your knowledge about some of the every day things that have their origins among Aboriginal people. The quiz can be found by going to the INAC Web site (www.inac.gc.ca) and clicking on the Kids' Stop logo on the main menu page. Click on Cool Stuff, then Did you know? and you're there.
If you're looking for something a little bit more substantial you'll find it just a click away on the SchoolNet Web site. There you will find the online version of the Aboriginal Innovations in Arts, Science and Technology handbook created by Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. in 2002 to increase awareness of the many contributions Aboriginal people can be credited for. The Aboriginal innovations are divided into three categories-arts, science and technology-with a long list of items under each category. Click on each item and you will be shown a description of the item, along with information about which group or groups of Aboriginal people are credited with its development and the approximate year the innovation came into being. Who knew playing cat's cradle or driving on asphalt with your rubber tires could be a celebration of Aboriginal ingenuity? You can find the handbook at www.schoolnet.ca/aboriginal/handbook.
Another useful site is that of the Cradleboard Teaching Project, created by Saskatchewan's own Buffy Sainte-Marie as a way to incorporate Aboriginal content into the mainstream teaching curriculum. Go to the site at www.cradleboard.org and you will find information about foods that originated with Aboriginal people, as well as information about Aboriginal inventions from fertilizer to cranial surgery.
Not a fan of the Internet? Don't worry. There's lots of information available in book form as well. You might want to check out the Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations, written by Emery Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield and published by Checkmark Books. The book provides information about more than 450 contributions made by Aboriginal people from across North American in a variety of areas, from agriculture to architecture to psychology.
And if you're looking for a creative way to help the young people in your life learn about the contributions Aboriginal people have made, INAC has a book created for National Aboriginal Day that will do just that. Claire and her Grandfather is a combination storybook/activity book designed to make children more aware of the contributions of Aboriginal people. You can order a copy online at www.inac.gc.ca.