If you’re a fan of pop star recently remarked, “I’m actually part Indian,” he says — “I think Inuit or something? I’m enough percent that in Canada I can get free gas.” Since we just recently opened our Aboriginal Voices Gallery here in order to showcase First Nations and Metis art along with that made by Inuit, this little snippet got us talking here about how it might be time to delve a little deeper into these issues and try to clear up some of the confusion regarding Aboriginal status in Canada.(or even if you’re not), you may have heard that he
In Canada, there are three distinct groups of Aboriginal peoples: Inuit, First Nations and Metis. Each is culturally, linguistically and legally different. Bieber here is talking about Inuit and First Nations (Indian is still the legal term for First Nations peoples), so let’s start there:
Inuit and First Nations peoples have very different histories and lifestyles. As one example, there is only one legal category assigned to Inuit, while First Nations peoples are divided into two: status and non-status. Status Indians are entitled to the rights and benefits outlined in treaties, while non-status Indians are not.
These rights and benefits are often directly linked to reservations. Another difference between Inuit and First Nations peoples is that Inuit have never lived on reservations while some First Nations peoples have and still do today. Living on a reservation does give some First Nations peoples certain tax exemptions because their reservations are legally separate from the surrounding provinces in which they are located. Contrary to Bieber’s belief, though, this does not entitle anyone to free gas: it may entitle some First Nations peoples with status cards the ability not to pay taxes on gas they purchase on their reservations. But they still need to pay for the gas, and so does Justin Bieber.
Over the next few weeks we will be posting more information about our Aboriginal Voices Gallery and Christian Morrisseau’s artwork, which will mean we will continue to discuss aspects of First Nations history and culture. But thanks to Justin Bieber, we could get the ball rolling today.
- Posted by Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach