1. The Land and the People of BC

The first unit of BCFNS 12 acts as introduction to the First Peoples of BC. This unit aims to give you an overview of life in pre-contact BC, as well as a sense of the incredible diversity of Indigenous peoples in this land.

Before we go any further, we need to start building an understanding of what constitutes an Indigenous worldview. What are the fundamental beliefs of Indigenous peoples, both in BC and throughout the world? It will help to compare it to the Western/European worldview that has informed mainstream/settler society in BC. The following videos and hand-out help to make this distinction clear.

Give this hand-out a quick look: Indigenous vs. Western Worldviews

ASSIGNMENT 1: Using the video and hand-out above, along with the readings on pages 8-18, answer the following questions in point form:

1) Describe the worldview, spirituality, and fundamental beliefs of First Nations people in BC (pgs 8-10).

2) “In the First Nations worldview, people are integrated with the natural world, not separate from it.” Describe the relationship between First Nations people & the land (pgs 14-18).

3) “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” Does this passage represent a Western/European worldview, or an Indigenous one? Why?

4) How would you describe your own worldview? Does it resemble an Indigenous worldview, a Western/European worldview, or both?


As you’ve read, oral history is a central feature of First Nations society. Here are two fascinating examples of First Nations oral histories being supported by modern science.

Heiltsuk Archeological Dig: First Nations in BC 14,000 Years Ago


Earthquakes in First Nations Oral History (start at “Once scientists had reconstructed…”)

ASSIGNMENT 2: After reading the first article (and the section concerning First Nations in the second article), refer back to pages 8-9 in your textbook. In a short paragraph, answer the following question:

“Our people live in an oral culture” – what does an “oral culture” look like? How would you describe an oral culture?
Do these articles suggest that opinions about First Nations oral traditions are changing?


bc first nations

ASSIGNMENT 3: Getting familiar with BC’s First Nations & BC geography. Use the above map (and feel free to use other online resources) to complete the following hand-out: BCFNS 12 – Mapping Activity

Also, check out this AWESOME online map of Indigenous groups across the planet:


ASSIGNMENT 4: BC has the largest number of distinct Indigenous languages in Canada. By a LONG SHOT. The First Nations of BC are incredibly “linguistically diverse.” Why do you think this is? Take a look at the map again. Take a look at a map of Canada (preferably one that illustrates geographical features like… mountains).

1) What do you notice about the traditional territories of BC’s First Nations? 

2) Briefly describe the land of BC. What are the important features of the land? (Pgs 18-20) 

3) BC can be divided (loosely) into 4 central regions: The Coast, Southern Interior, Northeast, and the Northern Interior. Complete the visual organizer below as you read about these distinctive regions (pgs 21-34): Regions of BC

4) Give a few examples as to how has the land and resources has shaped the lives of the people who live there. Include the Comox Valley – how has its climate, resources, and geography shaped the lives of the K’omoks people? (Think about food source, shelter, tools, culture, etc).


Check out these videos that explore the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land (these deal specifically with fishing practices).


Chapter 2 in the textbook examines how First Nations have traditionally used and managed resources. “First Nations people respect and co-exist with nature. The resources from the land and the sea which they use are more than just food or materials; they are viewed as gifts from the natural or supernatural realms. With such a diversity of people using an abundance of different resources throughout BC, a wide variety of technologies were developed and used for harvesting and processing the resources.”

ASSIGNMENT 5: This chapter outlines 9 different traditional uses of resources and technologies that First Nations people have developed – gathering plants, preserving food, creating shelter, and so on. Choose any 3 of them (the fishing practices outlined in the videos are fair game!) and describe them in point form (2-3 points).

Turn to pages 45-47. Describe the relationship between spirituality and resource management for BC First Nations people. How is this different than a Western/European approach? 


Imagine living in a world without money. You wouldn’t be able to simply buy the things you couldn’t make yourself. Would you be able to survive if you and your family had to produce everything you needed to live? And how would you get what you needed to survive? Historically, First Nations communities have been totally self-sufficient, living off the land and producing everything required for survival. Before colonization, these communities had local economies that ensured that everyone’s needs were met; at the same time, vast, sophisticated trade economies stretched far & wide throughout the land.

You’ve learned about the resources available in the different regions of BC. “The First Nations of BC are believed to have been the most active and expert traders of their time in North America.” You can probably guess (without even reading the textbook) some of the resources that would be traded between these regions.

ASSIGNMENT 6: Research three of the following trade items and note: where did the resource originate and where did it end up? Why was the trade item in demand and what was it used for?

Cedar Canoes
Cedar Baskets
Oolichan Grease & Grease Trails
Salmon (Dried Salmon, Salmon Oil)
Hemp Dogbane


ASSIGNMENT 7: Traditional Education

1) “The transition from adolescence into adulthood was marked by special ceremonies and rights. An important step in the education of young people of most First Nations was the ____________” (Pg 53) Explain in your own words.

2) What is the role of storytelling in First Nations education? Why was storytelling a good way to teach? (Pg 54)

3) Why was it important not to just go out and hunt a whale? Show one way the spiritual beliefs of this First Nation were part of the practical need to build a whale spear (Pg 55).

4) Explain the First Nations philosophy of education and its importance to the community (Pgs 52-53).



The Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch of the Northwest Coast

Potlatch Hand-out