We are all immigrants to Canada - even the Native People "came from away." Theories abound about where the Aboriginal Peoples came from. One prevailing idea is that small groups of hunters came from Asia across the Bering Strait land bridge between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. As this was the time of the last great ice age, sea levels were low and it would have been relatively easy for people to travel across the Bering Sea on the land bridge.
Another suggestion is that Aboriginal People may have come from somewhere in the Pacific, landing in South America and spreading north. Recent skeletal discoveries in Chile have been dated to 15,000 years ago. According to Dennis Stanford, working at the site, the skull shapes of these remains resemble people of South-East Asia or Polynesia. Other sites also appear to point to a much earlier arrival of Native Peoples. Old Crow and Bluefish in Alaska, both dating over 20,000 years old, as well as such diverse areas as Pennsylvania, Brazil and southern Mexico, all of which contain sites at least 20,000 years old, show that Native Peoples have inhabited the continent since before the last ice age.
A third theory is that the Native Peoples came from Western Europe, sailing along the eastern edge of the North American ice sheet in small animal skin boats approximately 18,500 years ago. These people, called the Solutreans, came from the areas of Southern France, Spain and Portugal. Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford, two archaeologists who propound this idea, suggest that the Solutreans landed on the eastern shore of North America, spreading as far north as the Canadian tundra and as far south as the desert regions of the United States.
These theories, mentioned in the Linguistic History of Canada/First Nations website, are unproven. What is more interesting, and perceptive, are the creation stories of the Aboriginal People, themselves. One of my favourites is a story told by Norm Wesley, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation. It begins with two people walking in another world who see this world through gaps in the clouds. I do not want to tell you more, as the way in which Mr. Wesley tells the story is truly unique, and you must hear it for yourself.
Another story, The Legend of Weesakayjacktells a story of the creation of North America. Having some overtones of the Christian story of the great flood, this legend tells how important animals helped one man create the North American continent.
The peoples of northern Oregon and south-west Washington have a story that tells, not how the earth was created, but where they came from. This legend involves such characters as the south wind, Thunderbird and Giant Woman, whose mischief is the basis of the peoples' origin.
These different perspectives, scholastic and narrative, have the common denominator that Native Peoples came from somewhere else. The legends tell the stories from a personal perspective, while the academic viewpoint is attempting to give substance to what the stories tell us.