Back to Civilization Clicks!
Gateway to Aboriginal Heritage Native material culture in Canada
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Kids & Teachers

About the Map Divisions

Up until 1910, the artifacts of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) were listed in the museum's registers by collector and numbered sequentially. In 1910, Edward Sapir, Chief Ethnologist of the GSC, established a new classification system based on the anthropological concept of culture area (that is, a geographical/cultural region whose peoples share important cultural traits, for example, they speak related languages and have similar material cultures and social structures).

Using this approach, Canada was divided into five main culture areas, with each area given a Roman numeral designation: Eastern Woodlands (III), Arctic (IV), Plains (V), Plateau and Mackenzie Valley (VI) and West Coast (VII).

Within each of these areas, groups were assigned a capital letter, for example, within the West Coast (VII) category, Haida was B, Tsimshian was C, etc. Within each group, artifacts were numbered sequentially, as they were acquired.

Sapir's classification system meant it was possible to identify any numbered specimen as to culture area and group, and strengths and weaknesses in the collections could more easily be assessed. In the intervening years there has been only one major revision to Sapir's system. In 1970, area VI (Plateau and Mackenzie Valley) was separated into Area VI (Western Subarctic) and Area II (Plateau).

The CMC recognizes that this system of classification is only one of a number of possible ways of organizing the ethnological collections.