Mr. Speaker, just before I start, this being the end of the session, before the holidays, I too would like to add my best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Christmas and new year, and thank all Canadians for their generosity. Everyone at some time in their life faces difficult situations, and Canadians are very generous, and have been this season, in helping to increase that magic so that everyone, even those in need, experience it. I encourage all Canadians not to stop now. There is still lots of need before Christmas and Hanukkah, etc.
I want to talk about this wonderful bill. It is an excellent example of the reconciliation that everyone in this House wants to promote. I want to talk about two things. One is why it is so important to have indigenous people on the historic sites board. We might miss things without them.
The first thing I want to talk about is materials, including, for example, when Europeans came a few hundred years ago. I would also like to talk about the frequency of the sites. There are far more opportunities for sites, because the indigenous people have been here more than 10,000 years longer than Europeans. There were all those years to create historic sites. They have vastly more sites and, of course, we would want to make sure they have good representation, government-to-government representation, a specific spot on the board to ensure their presence, over and above other spots that could also be indigenous.
An example is that in the northern part of Yukon, we can see driftwood lying around. It could look like driftwood to any of us, but these are historic cariboo fences that were set up to guide the cariboo to spots where they could be hunted. The Europeans used materials that would last, cement, etc., not natural materials. The first nations people, indigenous people, use the land, natural materials, which are not as easy to distinguish.
Fish traps could perhaps be made out of willow. People would not necessarily know what these were, or bush camps that they used to live in, even at 40 below zero. Non-indigenous people on the board would not necessarily know what these are. They are much harder to detect because they are a part of nature. They always were part of nature.
There are a number of battle sites that, once again, non-indigenous people would have no idea where these might be. People would have to go to these sites to even be able to identify them.
There are far more frequent indigenous historical sites possible because of the 10,000-plus years of people living here. In my area alone, just one of the ridings in the country, there are six indigenous languages: Kutchin, Southern Tutchone, Northern Tutchone, Gwich'in, Kaska, and Hän, and maybe a few more.
It shows how bountiful the people were who lived on this land. There is a map in this month's National Geographic that shows all of the first nations and indigenous languages of Canada. It is so dense right across the country, we can imagine how many historic sites they must have. What people might not think of as indigenous sites in fact are. In my riding, for instance, we just had the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. It was first nations' guides who followed their trails and showed the army where to build the highway. There were also Tlingit traders. When the gold rush came, people might think that was the first gold rush, but of course people had lived there for thousands of years, indeed 10,000 years ago, in the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, for instance.
The Tlingit from the coast had what they called the grease trail, the eulachon trail, to bring eulachon oil into the centre of Yukon. Non-indigenous historians would think that the Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass trail that gold rushers came in on were the start, but these were the first nations' trails from time immemorial, where they traded into the interior and had interactions, both positive and conflictual, with other indigenous people, and with the whole trading system, the whole economic system in the interior.
Another item that people would not necessarily know about was a volcano, roughly 1,100 years ago. If people dig beneath the surface in most of Yukon, they will see a layer of white ash. A whole new culture started in Yukon at that time. It changed from atlatl weapons to a bow and arrow. These are all things that only the indigenous people might draw us to.
Other aspects of indigenous history in Yukon are tar sites, where there was caribou dung piled on a hill. People might not know what that was if they did not have the appropriate education. These were discovered only a few years ago, actually. In the summer, the caribou have to get away from the bugs and go on ice patches in the mountains, which last all summer. For thousands of years people hunted the caribou on those sites, and now historical weapons are being found where those patches existed.
There is such a prevalence of aboriginal sites all across Canada, hundreds of different first nations. If they come from Europe, people might think they are all the same, but, as I said, there are 14 separate first nations just in my area, one riding of the country. We can imagine how many first nations there are across Canada, how much history, and how many historic sites, for which we need the interpretation and wisdom of the elders.
Fortunately, they had an oral history, and these records are in the minds of the people. We all agree that this oral history is an important part of the historic record of Canada. That is why it is so important that this bill creates spots for Inuit, Métis, and first nations people on the board, so that far more of these sites will be recognized and recorded for the very important history of our nation.