Nuxalk Nation

Coping, once and for all

You don’t necessarily have to be particularly perceptive to notice that Native American indigenous groups are on the decline in certain parts of the United States. Whether to through intermarriage or migration, a lot of indigenous communities have shrunk tremendously. In fact, if you look at many language groups in certain parts of Canada and in the United States, it seems that, among these clusters, only people aged 60 and above remain. This is a serious problem because regardless of how you define ethnic identity, whether it’s a language, collective culture, shared sense of history, or physiological features, by all accounts, many indigenous groups are under severe numerical downward pressure.

This begs the question of whether demographics is destiny. On paper, you might have a geographic region that says Nuxalk, but what does that really mean? It may mean that it was a historically
Nuxalk area, and it’s now populated by people who are anything but members of that linguistic group. This is the reality that many native indigenous peoples are facing, and the problem here is that there is no easy solution. It really all boils down to just coping.

Coping, once and for all, as you probably already know, it is very different from solving or resolving. Still, we have to deal with it at this level. We have to avoid being in denial and take it for what it is. So, considering the huge demographic change happening, how do we cope?

The Solution is Education

The solution is actually education because regardless of what a person looks like, or what percentage of their DNA can be traced to a native indigenous group, a larger and more effective factor to keep in mind is their tendency or willingness to identify as part of a specific ethnic group. This is the key.

Furthermore, if you educate people the right way to take pride in their indigenous root, and to take an active role and proactively protect that identity across several generations, then you have an open gateway to other forms of education that go a long way in ensuring that the particular ethnic demographics of a particular culture group makes it to the next century.

I am, of course, talking about language training, cultural training, history training, and so on and so forth, but it all begins with the initial buy-in. It all begins with the acknowledgement that, given all these other factors, a person actively wishes to become a member of a specific group and celebrates that membership. Without this key factor, then it’s going to be a much tougher sell to get that person to sign on to the other things that actually cement our cultural membership and create a self-reinforcing and sustainable system that delivers on these points of distinction long into the future.

What makes is particularly challenging is that you have to do this on both an individual level, as well as on an intergenerational level. It’s not enough to have a large base of people identifying as part of an indigenous group, they have to be ready, willing, eager and able to transmit that commitment to the next generation.