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The Place of Economics in the Aboriginal Societies


Write an essay on "The Place of Economics within the Aboriginal Cycle and a woman's Obligation and Rights in This System".


The economic state of different communities is paramount not only to them but to the governments of the day. Aboriginal communities around the world present with slightly varying economic aspects, which interconnect with other aspects of the Aboriginal societies. In establishing the place of economics in the Aboriginal communities though, a homogenous approach is necessary. While a lot of external influence including colonization has had a lot of influence on the Aboriginal social, cultural, economic and political systems, studies indicate that the roles and obligations assumed by men and women, remain similar to the contemporary roles (Knopf 2008). In this regard, the role of women as caretakers to their children, homemakers among other roles discussed herein, can still be related to both the traditional and the contemporary roles of this particular gender. Women also took and still take a central role in the economic sustainability of the Aboriginal communities. As women, there rights are distinct, recognized by the society, and upheld from generation to generation (Knopf 2008). This essay presents the place of economics in Aboriginal communities, the economic obligations of women and their rights within the Aboriginal System.  Further, it discusses the interconnectedness between the economy of the Aboriginal societies, the complexity of these economies in different regions, as supported by other researchers in this particular area.

The Place of Economics in the Aboriginal Societies

After the onset of colonialism in countries like Canada, the Aboriginal communities have embraced both formal labour participation and the traditional roles, set out within the communities. They have been able to integrate the national economic aspects though gradually, into their own social, economic, and political settings. It is difficult to obtain the accurate picture of Aboriginal social labour force participation in the formal labour market.  This is due to the difficulty and the inconsistencies experienced in collecting data. The statistical data on the Aboriginal people and the Canadian population generally leave out individuals who live in several territories, including reserve dwellers. As a result, there is an obvious incomplete picture in terms of the Aboriginal people’s economic conditions.

The economic activities remain one of the main priorities of both men and women in the Aboriginal societies. The Aboriginal populations engage in diverse economic activities, influenced by different factors within their environment.  These include the political, the social, and the cultural and even religious factors.  Further, the economic activities of these groups of people vary as they engage in different professional, and work with different industries, in order to earn a sustainable livelihood. In the year 2010 in Canada, the Aboriginal people who were living in the Canadian provinces and away from the reserves were largely employed by the health care institutions and the social service stations (Knopf 2008). The next employer after these was retail and trade, the public administration systems and the construction sector. It was however established that the Aboriginal Canadians were underrepresented in areas such as management and further in natural and applied sciences (Knopf 2008). Despite the fact that Aboriginal people take part in all the sectors of employment in a country, the historical, political, economic and even social conditions shape their representations in different Aboriginal groups in a country’s labour market.

Generally, the rate of employment for the Aboriginal communities is much lower as compared to the any country’s general population, where they exist. This is the case for Canada and even Australia, where the unemployment rates seem to be higher when compared to that of the public in the two states.  Canada conducted an Aboriginal People's Survey in the year 1991, which looked at the activity o the Aboriginal people in the labour force at the age of 15 and above living within and away from the reserves. From the report, only 43% of the Aboriginal people worked to obtain monetary income, as compared to the 61% of the Canadian population over-15s in total. However in the 2006 Census, this rate rose from 43% to 65.8% per cent.  In spite of the increase, the employment rate for Aboriginal Canadians remains lesser than the 81.6% employment rate posted by the general Canadian employed over 15s. Further, the Aboriginal people's population is twice probably to be unemployed as compared to a non-Aboriginal people.

In regard to income, the Aboriginal laborers earn lesser wages as compared to the general population despite the variation in the amounts. The 2006 Census in Canada indicate the median earn for Aboriginal people which was $18,962 was relatively lesser than the income earned by non-Aboriginal groups ($27,097). It should be noted that some of the Aboriginal families that live in the suburbs transact through non-monetary means.  For instance, one may be given food from the farm as payment for a particular service they have offered. In this regard, it is difficult to find numerical records for such an economic activity.

The economics of the aboriginals plays the role of highlighting the social, cultural, and political stature of these groups of people. The low participation levels in the national labour force can partially indicate the structural constraints facing them, and their reserves. From the previous statement, a number of the Aboriginal individuals take part in the some activities and/or transactions, which are not usually recognized as employment in the formal setting since they are never carried out in the formal markets. On the other hand, other Aboriginal populations may find it difficult; to integrate the traditional economies with national economies in the countries they live in.  Due to reliance on the resource availability including hunting, trapping, and fishing, the economic activities in these reserves are seasonal. The Aboriginal groups of people usually remain more likely to in their employment temporarily than those who are not Aboriginals. It is indicated that in Canada, 14% of Aboriginal people except for those, which live in reserves, were employed on a seasonal contracts in the year 2010 as compared to the 9.8% the non-Aboriginal people.

The economics of the Aboriginal people highlights the possible discrimination and stereotyping of the Aboriginal people in terms of employment. As indicate earlier, there is possibility of discrimination because of the huge gap between the employment rate of the Aboriginal people and that of the general population of a country. After establishing that there are a lesser proportion of the Aboriginals serving in senior levels of management of institution, it is likely that even those qualified individuals may be forcibly disqualified, based on stereotypes.

Further, the is inadequate and crowded housing, the geographical isolation, the lack of transport measures, the poor health and levels of  education remain the main barriers to employment. These factors also affect the economic performance of the natives, as they need good shelter, food and other supplies, accessed by majority of the city dwellers in regions that have the Aboriginal societies. Aboriginal economies however, are fit to allow the members to easily fit in the community, both off-season and offseason.  Studies indicate that the Aboriginal groups are connected to their land as the main source of economic benefits.  Their connection to their land includes both spiritual and physical connection, knowing well hat their ancestors lived within the existing lands. Therefore, the place of economics in the Aboriginal societies is a vital aspect that remains the concern of different development agencies. 

The Complexity of Aboriginal Economies

There are different factors that remain paramount in the economic perspective of the modern day aboriginal societies. These include the particular evolutionary heritage of every individual community; how much the community members were drawn into economic factors such as money and wages; and the particular national governments’ influence and administration of these Aboriginal economies(Mick 9 July 2010). In every country that has aboriginal societies including Canada and Australia, the contribution of these communities’ economies remains multifaceted contemporarily. Despite the fact that these individuals form part of the labour force in these countries, little data lists them as part of the economic contributors to the governments (Mick 9 July 2010). There is no official that brings out the contribution of activities that are done on subsistence basis within the Aboriginal societies, such as the different local-based forms of paying for specific goods and services.  Activities like fishing, hunting, sewing of clothing and childcare are not well captured in the literature of these communities. This is because it is complex, to come up with such data, in such a complex economy, where some hunted game could be used partly for sale and partly for household consumption. Gifts are given out as well as received in kind and in form of cash in these communities. The scale of these exchanges range between both small to relatively large in terms of monetary value. There are individuals in the Aboriginal societies who settle their debts through provision of nonmonetary payments. This makes it even more difficult for an economist to come up with clear monetary flow between the existing markets, the household in the Aboriginal societies, and to different financial institutions within the country.  The mixing of both traditional subsistence economic activities and formal modern economic activities is beneficial to these economies though. Aboriginal economic status get more complicated especially when geographical factors such as climate, relief, droughts among others affect a particular area, inhabited by these groups.  At one point, they have to employ survival mechanisms that could be both traditional and/or those developed later, in order to ensure their contracting economy remains relatively stable until the factors become conducive again.

In attempts to collect more accurate data, the changes in the methods of collecting data have impacted on the population measurement. In Canada for instance, the Census questionnaire in 2010 that was compulsory for 20% of Canada’s population was wholly cancelled and later replaced by a National Household Survey voluntary form to be mailed to around 30% of private residents in Canada. Apart from being voluntary, the wordings and the formatting of the documents sent to the Aboriginal communities, which could be paramount in coming up with rough estimates of their complex economic performance were customized for their own convenience. This shows how the Aboriginal economies remain a puzzle to the national governments, within which these groups of people exist. 

The Economic Obligations and rights of Aboriginal Women

Both traditionally and in the contemporary times, women have taken a central role in the economics of the Aboriginal societies, in Canada, Australia and other parts of the world.  Similarly, they have had their rights and freedoms defined by their communities they live in. It According to studies carried out in Canada on the Aboriginal women, it is indicated that traditionally they wholly involved in the preparation, the production,  distribution and even the consumption of commodities such as clothing, shelter materials and food(Gooda 9 July 2010).  It was, and partly remains the role of women to prepare clothing both for sale and for use within their homes(Mick 9 July 2010). While men took the central role of providing the different needs in homes, the women had to prepare them into useable forms for the families and the children.

Aboriginal women had the obligation to participate in horticultural and agricultural activities in the society.  In the Aboriginal Australians and the Aboriginal Canadians, it is clear that women took horticulture and general agriculture as one of their major role in families. Agriculture remains a backbone to majority of these communities having had their traditional societies and native areas encroached by modern day constructions of structures, from whence they obtained game meat to supplement their diets.  In the American continent, the existing Red Indian communities still hold strong to their languages, their religions, their economic activities among other socioeconomic and political aspects.  The women in this region still carry out farming more so for subsistence use (Patricia 5/16/ 2011).  The aboriginal communities that are however located in areas that do not favor agriculture, still survived on other means including hunting and gathering.   For these communities, the men hunted, but the women prepared the meals for the families.   A family in the aboriginal culture, still existing today comprises of more than just the extended family.  It can refer to individuals who are still related distantly, but still claim common ancestry (Patricia 5/16/ 2011).  More specifically, women gathered fruits, nuts, and even roots especially among the Canadian Aboriginals.  In rare cases, women produced the traps that could be used to trap some small animals as food.

Another obligation of the women in the Aboriginal society economy was the manufacturing of household utensils among other furnishings. Making of pots was, and remains the role of women. Other household equipment made by women includes wooden mortars that were used to crush both medicine and corn as food (Patricia 5/16/ 2011). The colonialist who reached some of these parts and established textile industries adopted this trend.  Today, majority of textile industries have employed more women than men in the sections that require handcrafts such as the gathering of the raw materials and the weaving.  Aboriginal women are good at making baskets, mats, different clothing among others. These particular items are a source of income and a livelihood for their families, apart from what the men provided.

Therefore, it was the right of the women to take part in these economic activities, in order to make the families remain sustained in terms of meeting basic needs.  In majority of the Aboriginal societies, early marriages are common (Leacock 2009).  Similarly, in patriarchal Aboriginal societies, men can at some point, determine the women’s obligations. The men deliberate on the household’s activities and remain the breadwinners, while women work remains supplementary.  In the view of the modern gender study perspective, the rights of women in the Aboriginal society seem to be quite oppressed at one point or another (Leacock 2009).  Early marriages today are discouraged and the incessant campaigns that penetrate these communities are slowly changing the perspective of women on their gender roles and their rights.

In conclusion, essay describes the economic status of the aboriginal people, who exist in different countries. In order to portray the picture of all the Aboriginal communities, the presentation uses a homogenous approach to explain the palace of economics among the Aboriginal societies.  It also brings out the interconnectedness of the economy and the socio-cultural and political factors that affect the Aboriginal people.  Research indicates that lower number of Aboriginal individuals lead to poor salaries and a slow economic. Stereotypes and discrimination may also influence the hiring of individuals into public jobs (Patricia 5/16/ 2011). This research goes further to explain the women’s economic obligations and rights in the Aboriginal communities. In this regard, women play a crucial role in ensuring that the families have food to eat and clothing to wear, among other factors. They work in factories, more so in textile industries, where their productivity is usually high. 


Knopf, Kerstin (2008). Aboriginal Canada revisited. University of Ottawa Press. ISBN 978-0-7766-0679-8.

Leacock, Stephen (2009), The Dawn of Canadian History: A Chronicle of Aboriginal Canada, Dodo Press ISBN 1-4099-4930-3

Magocsi, Robert (2002). Aboriginal peoples of Canada: a short introduction. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3630-9.

Nock, David; Haig-BroWN, Celia (2006). With good intentions : Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal relations in colonial Canada. University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-1138-5.

Cavell, Edward (2009). Classic Images of Canada's First Nations: 1850–1920. Heritage House. ISBN 978-1-894974-64-6.

Clark, Ella Elizabeth (October 5, 2011). Indian Legends of Canada. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 978-1-55199-512-0.

Williams, George; Brennan, Sean; Lynch, Andrew (2014). Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory (6 ed.). Annandale, NSW: Federation Press. pp. 986–987. ISBN 978-1-86287-918-8.

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