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name Canada comes from the Iroquois word kanata, which means "village"
or "settlement." This name was first used by French explorers in reference
to the village of Stadacona (in modern day Quebec), then was later expanded to refer
to the entire region around Stadacona, the lands along the St. Lawrence, and expanding
further until the entire country adopted the name in 1841.
Canadian culture begins with the First Nations people and the Inuit, but today the
culture has changed much and only in some ways are these roots visible. These people
lived on the land, but never believed they owned it, a concept in complete contradiction
to the Europeans who arrived in the 1400s and 1500s. This difference in mentality
led to conflict with the immigrating Europeans and vast cultural changes. However,
in Nunavut the culture remains quite authentic to that of the past as the Inuit
live primarily off the lands.
The traditional way of life was almost wholly lost as the Europeans, primarily the
French and English, arrived and settled the land. Their diseases and the Europeans
spread west, killing many of the people, although in other cases the First Nations
people had their lives changed in another way. With the arriving Europeans, many
people became the hunters in the fur trade, leading to wars and the destruction
of many people as guns were introduced. In some regions the locals and the Europeans
intermarried, but even the children of these couples generally exchanged the aboriginal
life for European-styled existence.
Canada grew slowly compared to their southern neighbor and tensions in Canada remained
high as the ethnic French and English never seemed to get along. This was further
magnified at the conclusion of the American War of Independence (late 1700s), which
led to a massive immigration of British-supporting Americans (Loyalists) to find
refuge in Canada. Despite the ethnic tensions, the people shared a common way of
life as trade with Europe dominated the economic situation and most people continued
to live difficult lives outside of the cities in the cold frontier.
Since independence in the late 1800s Canada has struggled to find a unified identity.
The French Canadians in Quebec retain numerous aspects of their past as the French
language, food, and religion (Catholicism), are dominant. The English part of the
country has opened its doors to economic progress, welcoming more immigrants and,
in the 1970s, taking most of Quebec's businesses to dominate the country economically.
Despite this division, the unity of the people is still great and is best represented
in numerous cultural phenomenons. Despite the over-use of the stereotype, hockey
is not just Canadian, it is what brings the people together in so many ways, from
entertainment and recreation to socialization and unity in international tournaments.
Hockey is also the greatest example of Canadian culture, not in the sport, but in
the culture surrounding the sport, in fact even the country's most famous restaurant,
Tim Horton's is named after (and formerly co-owned by) a hockey player by the
same name. Canada's culture and way of life today, like hockey, is competitive,
but ends with friendly banter and a beer. The people are easy going and about as
far as one can get from pretentious. They are welcoming to visitors and immigrants
alike as kindness and extending a helping hand are generally considered greater
qualities than power, money, or fame.
The Canadians are aware of their place and reputation in this world as they are
often overshadowed by larger countries, particularly the United States. Although
Canadians may argue, this relationship greatly affects the Canadian people as their
way of life is similar in technology, entertainment, culture, and work to the Americans,
but more importantly this relationship changes Canada in their continuous need to
be different and unique. Canadians are proud of their nationality and the many small
differences that distinguish themselves from the Americans; this leads to great
competition and hard work, but also at times leads to emphasizing their differences
as local restaurants and cultural phenomenon are magnified. Most of the time the
Canadians are only focused on their daily lives, not concerned with anyone else,
although they remain always aware of the world around them.
Canada continues to be a land of opportunity as immigrants regularly arrive; some
of whom become wholly Canadian culturally, while others maintain their cultural
roots and way of life. All of these people, both local and immigrant alike, have
taken to the digital age as technology takes on a larger and larger role in society
today. The people have also used these advances to move forward on numerous environmental
initiatives, particularly in large cities, as this is where the overwhelming percentage
of the population lives.
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