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First Nations — Premières nations

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Native battle with the Vikings, 1000 AD, John Henry Walker, McCord Museum, M930.50.2.11,1850-1885

Native battle, John Henry Walker, McCord Museum, M930.50.2.16, 1858-1885

"Columbus did not discover a new world, he established contact between two worlds, both already old."
                                                                                                  J. H. Perry

"Imagine that the whole of human settlement here in North America neatly fit into one year—we’ll use the most conservative estimation of 12 000 years of First Nations habitation: Columbus would arrive in the “New World” at noon December 25, at 10:30 p.m. on December 27 Samuel de Champlain would found Quebec, and the Dominion of Canada would be founded at 2:00 a.m. on December 30 (The idea of putting the whole human history of North American into the chronology of one year belongs to scholar Sarah Carter)."
                                                                                             Jesse Adrian Thistle

John Guy’s Colonists Greeting the Beothuk in Newfoundland,  Copper Engraving, Theodore de Bry, Americae Pars Decima, 1619

Anishnawabe Scout, erected to show how aboriginal peoples helped Samuel de Champlain navigate the Ottawa River, 1613. Hamilton MacCarthy 1918

"Hospitals for the poor would be useless among them because there are no beggars. Those who have are so liberal to those who are in want, that everything is enjoyed in common. The whole village must be in distress before any individual is left in necessity."
                                                                              Jesuits describing the Iroquois

"The canoe . . .  was to be used as our principal means of transportation – personal, governmental, military and commercial – for several centuries. Why? Because the First Nations had developed the appropriate means of transport for our road system, that is, our rivers and lakes."
                                                                         John Ralson Saul, A Fair Country

"Every inch of penetration westwards by first the francophone and then the anglophones was dependent on Native support for guidance, food, tactics and negotiations."
                                                John Ralston Saul, Reflections of a Siamese Twin

Colonists introduced European diseases such as smallpox, measles and typhus among First Nations. Lacking immunity to such diseases wave after wave of epidemics drastically reduced the number of First Nations people living in North America.

"Out of a hundred that have passed through our hands scarcely have we civilized one. We find docility and intelligence in them, but when we are least expecting it they climb over our enclosure and go to run the woods with their relatives, where they find more pleasure than in all the amenities of our French houses. Savage nature is made that way; they cannot be constrained and if they are they become melancholy . . . Besides, the savages love their children extraordinarily and when they know that they are sad they will do everything to get them back."
                                                                                        Mother de l'Incarnation

'THE TORONTO PURCHASE', 1788. The final treaty between the Crown and the Indian Chiefs for the purchase of lands whereon the city of Toronto was eventually built. John David Kelly, Copyright: Confederation Toronto, 1939

Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), National Gallery of Canada 5777, William Berczy,c. 1807

A Moravian Missiolnary conversing with the Eskimo at Nain, Labrardor. Missionnaire moravien conversait avec en inuit à Nain, Labrador. C-124432, 1819

Indian Hunters Pursuing the Buffalo in the Early Spring. Chasseurs indiens poursuivant le bison, tôt au printemps. LAC, Acc. No. 1981-55-68 Bushnell Collection, Peter Rindischbacher, ca. 1822.

A family from the tribe of the wild Sautaux Indians on the Red River. Une famille appartenant à la tribu des Indiens Saulteux qui vivent en liberté dans la région de la rivière Rouge. Peter Rindisbacher, Acc. No 1988-250-28, 1821

Inside of an Indian Tent. LAC Acc. No. 1981-55-73 Bushnell Collection, Peter Rindischbacher, 1824

Hunting the Buffalo. LAC Acc. No. R9266-1049 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana,  Peter Rindischbacher,  1836.

View of Halifax from the Indian Encampment at Halifax. Vue de Halifax, à partir du camp indien à Halifax. LAC Acc. No. 1990-586-1, Robert Petley, 1837

Wi-Jun-Jon. George Catlin, LAC Acc. No. 1970-189-152 W.H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana, 1844

A Missionary Descending the Rapids in a Canoe with Indians. LAC Acc. No. R9266-3442 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana [Bishop Mountain's travels to the North-west mission in Manitoba] 1845

MiKmaq women selling baskets 1845 LAC Acc. No. R9266-319

Trapper's Bride, Alfred Jacob Miller

"By marrying into the indigenous world, most of the newcomers were marrying up. They were improving their situations, politically and economically. . . The HBC built its networks – for more than 200 years one of the world's largest commercial and political structures – in good part through interracial marriages."
                                                                         John Ralston Saul, A Fair Country

Indian artifacts, John Henry Walker, McCord Museum, M930,50.5.299, 1850-1885

Potlatch Fort Hope, 1859

On Kaministiqwia River. Camp sur la rivière Kaministikwia. William Armstrong, LAC No. 1970-188-1951, ca. 1860

"My impression of the Indian population is, that they have far more natural intelligence, honesty, and good manners, than the lowest class – say the agricultural and mining population – of any European country I ever visited, England included."
                                                                          Mathew Baillie Begbie,1861

"Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him."
                                                                                         Francis Parkman, 1865

New York Historical Society

[The Gradual Civilization Act in 1857 meant that] Indians were now to be confined to reserves until sufficiently civilized to be "emancipated from their Indian status and assimilated into mainstream society."
                                                                       Peter H. Russell, Canada's Odyssey

Sauteaux [Saulteaux] Indians (rabbit skin dresses) opposite Fort Garry. LAC Acc. No. R3523-61, William Henry Edward Napier, 1857-58

Interior of a Salish Longhouse. LAC Acc. No. R9266-343 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana, Edward M. Richardson, 1864

Indian Burial Grounds at Tenass Lake [British Columbia]. LAC Acc. No. 1937-135-1, Edward Mallcott Richardson, ca. 1864

Aboriginal women mending a canoe LAC PA 074670

Shoshonie Woman: Throwing the Lasso. LAC Acc. No. 1946-113-1 Gift of Mrs. J.B. Jardine, Alfred Jacob Miller, 1867

A Buffalo Rift. Ravin de bisons.  Alfred Jacob Miller, LAC Acc. No. 1946-110-1, 1867

Pawnee Indians Watching the Caravan. Indiens de la tribu des Pawnees épiant la caravane. Alfred Jacob Miller, LAC  Acc. No. 1946-138-1 Gift of Mrs. J.B. Jardine, Oklahoma, 1867

"91. It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada. . . it is hereby declared that . . . the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to. . .   24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians."
                                                     Section 91 (24) of the British North America Act


"Confederation . . . represented a deliberate attempt to remove Indigenous peoples from western lands and impose a new order based on agriculture and rooted in Anglo-Canadian civilization."
                                                                                                   Bill Waiser

"[When Canada negotiated with the Hudson's Bay Company directorship in London to acquire Rupert's Land] no representative from Rupert's Land, including Indian and Metis peoples were invited to participate, let alone even consulted."
                                                                                                        Bill Waiser

Indian settlement at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with the canal in the background. Établissement amérindien à Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), et canal à l'arrière-plan. William Armstrong, LAC Acc. No. 1970-188-2230, 1869

Potlatch at the Songhees village, Victoria, LAC C-24286, Frederick Dally, ca. 1870

Indian Encampment on Desert and Gatineau Rivers. Camp amérindien sur les rivières Désert et Gatineau, au Québec, Alfred Worsley Holdstock, ca. 1870, LAC C-040098

"About five o'clock the next morning, I got up to see about my horses . . . I could see buffalo all over. There were thousands and thousands of them . . . All around us,  as far as we could see, the plains were black with buffalo. The prairie seemed to be moving . . .
There was one thing that I did not like about that hunt. I saw hundred of buffalo, during that week, slaughtered for their hides. The whole carcass was left to rot on the plains. . . There were many bands of hunters on the plains beside ours. In all my years of buffalo hunting, I never destroyed buffalo for their pelts alone. I always took the whole carcass . . . My wife had once said that since we were going to make a living hunting buffalo, she did not want me to kill more than we could dry and pack . . .
The Yankees shot more buffalo for their hides than all the Indians and half-breed hunters put together. The Indian knew better. They did not want to see the buffalo gone forever. Parties of Yankees used to come up to the North-West to shoot for sport. They would sit on  hill and shoot. Once Buffalo Bill came on a shooting trip, and shot five hundred buffalo—just for fun."

Norbert Welsh, as told to Mary Weekes, The Last Buffalo Hunter, New York, 1939,  pp.82-85

"With emigrants of all Nations flowing into the country [the prairies] we are in constant danger of an Indian war . . . This may be prevented only by an early organization of a mounted police."
                                                                           Sir John A. Macdonald, 1871

The Manitoba Indian Treaty - Indian Chief Harranguing at the Stone Fort. LAC Acc. No. R9266-3764c: Peter Winkworth, Canadian Illustrated News, Sept. 9, 1871, [On August 3, 1871, Treaty No. 1 was signed between the federal government and seven chiefs of the Ojibway (Saulteaux) and Swampy Cree First Nations at Lower Fort Garry.]

The making of a treaty with the Indians of Manitoba marks an era in the history of the settlement of that Province. But for the peaceful arrangement of the Indian claims the progress of settlement might have been interrupted by such scenes between the Indians and the Whites as have disgraced the Western States of the American Republic, and Canada would have forfeited the good name it had previously acquired for dealing fairly, and even generously, with the Red Man. . . It effectively puts an end to all danger of trouble with the Indians."

                                                           Canadian Illustrated News, 9 September 1871

"The creation of Canada . . . was above all an act of imperialism. A nation-state annexed land inhabited by many other nations and then made them second-class citizens."
                                                                      Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians

Treaty medallion, LAC 70758, 1873-1899

Treaty medallion, LAC 70758, 1873-1899

Treaties from 1760 - 1923: Two sides to the story

"The Canadian federation was formed at the high tide of European imperialism, when white people. . . believed fervently in their racial superiority and . . . the 'obligation to rule subordinate, inferior, less –advanced peoples.'"
                                                          Peter H. Russell, Canada's Odyssey, p.150

"The Indians believed that no one owned the land. The whites were bound by their view of the world as something to be owned and conquered."
                                                               Robert Fulford, Saturday Night, July 1985

"Our hearts have been wounded by the arbitrary way the Government of B.C. has dealt with us in allocating and dividing our reserves . . .  For many years we have been complaining of the land left to us being too small . . .  We have felt like men trampled on, and are commencing to believe that the aim of the white men is to exterminate us as soon as they can, although we have always been quiet, obedient, kind and friendly to the Whites."
                                                                                   Petition to Ottawa, 1874

The purpose of making treaties was not to establish a continuing relationship of mutual help and the sharing of the country, but to pave the way for British settlers by isolating groups of Indians on tiny reserves, denying them the possibility of carrying on their traditional economy or the opportunity to participate in the new economy on the off-reserve lands they were considered to have "surrendered."
                                                                      Peter H. Russell, Canada's Odyssey

"In Canada, relocations were employed ostensibly to further the official goals – protection, civilization and assimilation – of Canadian native policy."
                                                                Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian

"Progress – railways, the telegraph, mechanized farming, immigrants from Ontario and later Europe, and an organized government, police and legal system – was inevitable, and neither the Métis nor the Indians could continue to live in their traditional ways."
                                                  Richard Gwyn, Nation Maker Sir John A. Macdonald

"It is no longer possible to tell the Canadian story without referring to the cultural genocide endured by First Nations for over a century following the Indian Act of 1876."
                                                            Dominic Hardy, Annie Gérin and Lora Carney

"These [treaties] were permanent nation-to-nation agreements with obligations on both sides. To this the governmental negotiators committed the Crown legally, ethically and morally. And over the last four decades that reality has led the Supreme Court to rule repeatedly in favour of the Aboriginal position and against that of Ottawa, the provinces and the private sector. Anyone sworn in as a Canadian citizen today or tomorrow inherits the full benefits and the full responsibilities – the obligations – of those treaties."
                                                                        John Ralston Saul, The Comeback

"We all know that the treaties involved a massive loss of land for First Nations. What most of us pretend we don't know is that this remarkable generosity was tied to permanent obligations taken on by colonial officials, then by the Government of Canada; that is, by the Crown, that is, by you and me. So we got the use of the land – and therefore the possibility of creating Canada – in return for a relationship in which we have permanent obligations. We have kept the land. We have repeatedly used ruses to get more of the land. And we have not fulfilled our side of the agreement."
                                                                        John Ralston Saul, The Comeback


Hunting buffalo during the North West Mounted Police long march of 1874, Canadian Illustrated News

Whiskey smugglers caught with the goods, Charles M. Russell, 1913

"What I offer you is to be while the water flows and the sun rises."
                                                    Alexander Morris, 1 October 1873


"This is our land! It isn't a piece of pemmican to be cut off and given in little pieces back to us. It is ours and we will take what we want."
                                                                                               Poundmaker, 1876


"We want none of the Queen's presents; when we set a fox trap we scatter pieces of meat all round, but when the fox gets into the trap we knock him on the head.; we want no bait." 
                                                                                                    Chief Big Bear


"Before the white man came, the Indians had everything they wanted; now that the Government has taken their land, it should provide for them."
                                                                                                 Chief Big Bear


"Our land is more valuable than your money. It will last forever. It will not perish as long as the sun shines and water flows, and through all the years it will give life to men and beasts. It was put there by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us."
                                                                              Chief Crowfoot, speech, 1870s

Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, 1878; NWMP Headquarters until 1882. LAC e00812892

"If the Police had not come to the country, where would we be all now? Bad men and whiskey were killing us so fast that very few indeed of us would have been left today. The Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter. . . I am satisfied. I will sign the treaty."
                                                 Chief Crowfoot, Blackfoot Crossing, 20 October 1877



“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men."

                                                                                 Sir John A. Macdonald, 1879

"On arriving there I found about 1300 Indians in a very destitute condition, and many on the verge of starvation. Young men who were known to be stout and hearty fellows some months ago were quite emaciated and so weak they could hardly work ; the old people and widows, who with their children live on the charity of the younger and more prosperous, had nothing, and many a pitiable tale was told of the misery they had endured."
                                             Lt. Gov. Edgar Dewdney, Blackfoot Crossing, July 1879

"The industrial school is the principle feature of the policy known as that of 'aggressive civilization.' . . it was found [in the Unites States] that the day-school did not work because the influence of the wigwam was stronger than the influence of the school. Industrial boarding schools were therefore established . . . if anything is to be done with the Indians we must catch him very young. The children must kept constantly within the circle of civilized conditions. . . The first and greatest stone in the foundation of the quasi-civilization of the Indians, wherever seen, was laid by missionaries. "
Nicholas Flood Davin, Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-breeds,
Ottawa, 1879

"If the Dominion Government intends to carry out a starvation policy with the Indians, then we will be no better than our cousins across the line, whom we condemn so lustily for their 'extermination' policy. We cannot allow the Indians to starve in our midst."
Prince Albert correspondent for the Saskatchewan Herald, 9 February 1880

"What for the Europeans was the gradual growth of settlement, economic expansion, material success, was for the Indian peoples a slow contraction of their country, social disintegration, a growing subjugation and the erosion of hope."
Stanley B. Ryerson, Unequal Union

"The life of an Indian woman in those early days was an extremely busy one. Packing and unpacking dogs and horses, making camps, providing wood, making and mending moccasins and wearing apparel, cooking, cutting, drying, and pounding meat, rendering grease, chopping bones to get out the marrow fat, making pemmican, stetching, scaping and dressing buffalo hides to make robes or leather."
                                                                                   John McDougall

The Buffalo Dance of the Sioux at Fort Qu'Appelle. LAC, Acc. No. 1984-45-138, Sydney Prior Hall, 18 August 1881

"The typical American captivity narrative has been described as  device for anti-Indian propaganda. At a time when Indians were an obstacle to frontier expansion, these atrocities were 'shaped by publishers exploiting a mass market that thrived on sensationalism, in a natural alliance with land speculators who wanted to implement a policy of Indian extermination in the interest of real estate development.'"
Sarah Carter, Capturing Women and James Levernier and Henning Cohen, The Indians and Their Captives [Today the word "captivity" is being used to describe First Nations children taken to residential schools or to foster homes.]

Buffalo bones gathered from the Prairies, Library and Archives Canada / PA-066544

“The fact is if you wish to educate these children you must separate them from their parents during the time that they are being educated. If you leave them in the family they may know how to read and write, but they still remain savages, whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes — it is to be hoped only the good tastes — of civilized people.”
                                                                         Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, 1883

"3. Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the "Potlatch" or in the Indian dance known as the "Tamanawas" is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to imprisonment ... and any Indian or other person who encourages ... an Indian or Indians to get up such a festival or dance, or to celebrate the same, ... is guilty of a like offence ..."
                                                                                     Indian Act, 19 April 1884

"The cause of the discontent [in 1885] is no secret to any person living in the North-West. Promises made when the Indians were strong and the whites weak are not carried out now that the whites have become strong and the Indians weak."
                                                       Frank Oliver, Edmonton Bulletin, 14 June 1884

"I saw gaunt children dying of hunger come to my place to be instructed. Although it was minus 30 to 40 degrees their bodies were scarcely covered with torn rags. These poor children came to catechism and to school. It was a pity to see them. The hope of having a little morsel of good dry cake was the incentive which drove them to this cruel exposure each day more no doubt than the desire of educating themselves. This privation made many die."
                                        Father Louis Cochin, Canadian North West History booklet.

"Take our music and our dances and you take our hearts."


"When you took the potlatch away from us, you gave us nothing to take its place."
                                                                                                        Chief Scow

[Macdonald's food policy (providing Indians with agricultural implements, farm instructors and rations) was] "tending to make the Indians a dependent population instead of civilizing them and making them more self-reliant."
                                                  David Mills, Liberal critic, House of Commons, 1885

"We are training the Indians to look to us for aid . . . [and] teaching them to rely on us for everything."
                                  Edward Blake, Liberal Party leader, House of Commons, 1885

"The Indian contributes to the revenue just as well as the white man. He buys taxed goods, he wears taxed clothes, he drinks taxed tea, or perhaps excised whiskey, just as well as the white man; and according to the liberal principle (the Liberal party in 1885 opposed Macdonald's plan to expand the suffrage to some Indians), we are to have taxation without representation in the case of the poor Indian. . . I can remember how the benevolent abolitionists brought the uneducated slaves from the Southern States by the underground railway into Western Canada, where they got homes. And those men, although unaccustomed to freedom, although just emerging from serfdom, when they came to Canada and had lived here for three years . . . became voters. . . And here are Indians, aboriginal Indians, formerly the lords of the soil, formerly owning the whole of the country. Here they are in their own land, preventing from either sitting in this House, or voting for men to come here and represent their interests. There are a hundred and twenty thousand of these people, who are virtually and actually disenfranchised, who complain, and justly complain, that they have no representation."
Sir John A. Macdonald, Commons Debates, 30 April  and 4 May 1885, pp. 1488, 1575.

Students and family members, Father Joseph Hugonnard, Principal, staff and Grey Nuns on a hill overlooking the Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Industrial School, Lebret, Saskatchewan, May 1885. Étudiants et membres de la famille, le directeur Père Joseph Hugonnard, le personnel d'école et les Soeurs Grisesue sur une colline qui surplombant le Pensionnat indien (école des métiers) de Fort Qu'Appelle, Lebret (Saskatchewan), mai 1885. LAC PA-118765, Oliver Buell, May 1885


"Nearly every Stó:lo adult male found employment in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad between 1879 and 1885. BC Indian Commissioner I. W. Powell… 'paid out nearly $300,000 for Indian labour alone. Stó:lo men supplied the C.P.R. with timbers for bridges and tunnels, worked as labourers laying down rails, and assisted in the masonry work reinforcing hill-sides, among other tasks."
Keith Thor Carlson, ed. You Are Asked to Witness: The Stó:lo in Canada's Coast History

“We have done all we could to make them work as agriculturists; we have done all we could, by the supply of cattle, agricultural implements and instruction, to change them from a nomadic to an agricultural life … We have had a wonderful success; but still we have had the Indians; and then in these half-breeds, enticed by white men, the savage instinct was awakened; the desire of plunder  --  aye, and, perhaps, the desire of scalping  -- the savage idea of a warlike glory, which pervades the breast of most men, civilised or uncivilised, was aroused in them, and forgetting all the kindness that had been bestowed upon them, forgetting all the gifts that had been given to them, forgetting all that the Government, the white people and the Parliament of Canada had been doing for them, in trying to rescue them from barbarity; forgetting that we had given them reserves, the means to cultivate those reserves, and the means of education how to cultivate them  --  forgetting all these things, they rose against us.” 
                                                                                Sir John A. Macdonald, 1885

“We acquired the North-West country in 1870. Not a life was lost, not a blow was struck, not a pound nor a dollar was spent in warfare, in that long period that has since intervened. I have not hesitated to tell this House, again and again, that we could not always hope to maintain peace with the Indians; that the savage was still a savage, and that until he ceased to be savage, we were always in danger of a collision, in danger of war, in danger of an outbreak. I am only surprised that we have been able so long to maintain peace  --  that from 1870 until 1885 not one single blow, not one single murder, not one single loss of life, has taken place.” 
                                                                                Sir John A. Macdonald, 1885

"Poundmaker was tried and convicted on evidence that, in any ordinary trial would have ensured his acquittal without the jury leaving the box, but the prejudice against the Indians in the North-West was so great that he could not get a fair trial."
                                                                            Lt. Col. George T. Denison, 1900

"It [the participation of a small number of Indians in the Riel Rebellion] affected all Aboriginal people after the rebellion. For close to a century, to be an Indian was to be invisible, so far as the government and the majority of Canadians were concerned. . . Before the North West Rebellion, Canadians had seen them as 'our Indians' in an expression of national pride because of the relationship between the two groups was so much superior to its American equivalent. Afterwards, Aboriginal people came to be regarded as just 'the Indians' or, worse, as 'the Indian problem' – a complication, an irritant, a disappointment."
                                                   Richard Gwyn, Nation Maker. Sir John A. Macdonald

Indian Act and the Pass System
“No rebel Indians should be allowed off the Reserves without a pass signed by an I.D. official. The dangers of complications with white men will thus be lessened. & by preserving a knowledge of individual movements any inclination to petty depredations may be checked by the facility of apprehending those who commit such offences.”
Public Archives of Canada, RG 10, Vol. 37 10, file 19,550-3. Hayter Reed to Edgar Dewdney, 20 July 1885.

"I did everything to stop bloodshed. If I had not done so, there would have been plenty of blood spilled this summer."
Chief Poundmaker, at his trial, July 1885

"You think I encouraged my people to take part in the trouble. I did not. I advised against it."
Chief Big Bear, at his trial, September 1885

"The Plains Cree's reward for that loyalty [bands that remained loyal during the Riel Rebellion] was the imposition on them of the Indian Act, Canada's legislative instrument of colonization, under which Indian agents would direct the management of their affairs, their traditional recreations would be prohibited, and their children removed from them to be educated in residential schools in an all-out effort to destroy their culture and identity."
                                                             Peter H. Russell, Canada's Odyssey, p.168

Compliments of the Season - Canadian National Game, Lacrosse. Montréal, LAC Acc. No. 1985-61-179 Source: Attic Books, Marvin Post, London, Ontario., late 19th century

Three Mohawk women at the base of the Joseph Brant Memorial PA-195401, . Shelley Niro photo, 1991, Percy Wood sculpture 1886

"The great project of nation building, attendant on the building of the railway to British Columbia, was undertaken at a lasting cost to Canada's First Nations."
                                                         Dominic Hardy, Annie Gérin and Lora Carney

John A. Macdonald stopped at the Blackfoot Siksika Reserve just east of Calgary on July 21, 1886, during his first trip by rail across Canada. He wanted to thank Chief Crowfoot for his support during the Rebellion of 1885. Crowfoot was wearing his oldest clothes, a sign of mourning for his adopted son Poundmaker, who had died on Crowfoot's reserve on July 4 after his early release from prison. Crowfoot discussed problems faced by his people, such as the fires started by the trains passing through his reserve. Historian Ged Martin, author of John A. Macdonald:  Canada's First Prime Minister, states that "the event was staged more to show Macdonald as a benign ruler than to engage with Native grievances."

LAC, PA-050799, 1887

"Promises by government people were like the clouds, always changing."
                                                                                Chief James Seenam


"The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”
                                                                                            John A Macdonald

[In 1885 Sir John A. Macdonald's Franchise Act gave all adult Indians living in eastern Canada the right to vote without, as in the past, having to give up in exchange any of their special rights as Aboriginals. The Act lasted until 1898 when the franchise was taken away by the Laurier government.]

The Acts commonly known as the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 were almost uniformly aimed at removing any special distinction or rights afforded First Nations peoples and at assimilating them into the larger settler population. This was initially meant to be accomplished by the Gradual Civilization Act through voluntary enfranchisement (i.e., a First Nations person would relinquish their status in exchange for land and the right to vote), but only one person voluntarily enfranchised.
                                                                                  The Canadian Encyclopedia

"The Dominion has done very well by its Indians, of whom it has a hundred thousand. It has tried to civilize them by means of schools, missions and farm instructors."
                                 Charles Dudley Warner, Studies in the South and West, 1889

                       NOS  BONS  MINISTRES  D'OTTAWA

                             La Vie Illustrée, (Illustrious Life), Montréal, 11 May 1889

[Sir John A. Macdonald was the minster in charge of Indian Affairs for over nine years from 1878-1888.]

A group of nuns with Aboriginal students. Groupe de religieuses et d'élèves autochtones. H.J. Woodside / Library and Archives Canada / PA-123707, ca. 1890.

Preparing the Mid-day meal.  LAC PA-026036, Howard Fuller, n.d.



"How would we white people like it if because we were weak, and another people more powerful than ourselves had possession of our country, we were obliged to give up our children to go to schools of this more powerful people–KNOWING that they were taken from us for the very purpose of weaning them from the old loves and the old associations–if we found that they were most unwillingly allowed to come back to us for the short summer holidays; and when they came were dressed in the peculiar costume of our conquerors, and were talking their language instead of the dear old tongue."
                                      Fair Play [Edward Wilson], The Canadian Indian, March 1891

Edward Wilson was the missionary principal of a residential school at Sault Ste. Marie from 1873 to 1893. Like other schools at the time, the school used force to assimilate Indian children into western culture. Unlike other educators at the time, Wilson came to have grave doubts about the policy. He came to admire many features of native culture and promoted native autonomy. He published his ideas under the pen name Fair Play in The Canadian Indian in March 1891.

"All the actions of our Government, of our Indian Department, of our educational missions, even the organization and carrying on of our Christian missions, are from the white man's stand-point. The Indian is not asked whether he prefers living on an Indian reserve to roaming the country . . . whether he is to retain his language and the customs of his forefathers, or to give them up. . . They are simply one after another forced upon him. . . Is there nothing––nothing whatever––in the past history of this ancient people to merit our esteem, or to call forth our praise? Were there no great minds among their noted chiefs? Do the ruins of their ancient cities show no marks of intelligence, energy or perseverance, in the people that planned and constructed them? While taking steps to preserve their ancient relics in our museums, and while studying their past history and their many and diverse languages, were it not well, as a matter of justice and Christian kindness to them, as well as out of respect for their past and but little-understood history, to allow them to preserve their own nationality, and, under certain restrictions, to enact their own laws? Would it not be pleasanter, and ever safer to us, to have living our midst a contented, well-to-do, self-respecting, thriving community of Indians, rather than a set of dependent, dissatisfied, half-educated and half-Anglicized paupers?"
                                      Fair Play [Edward Wilson], The Canadian Indian , March 1891

                        THE  MODERN  BABEL
GOV. ROYAL: Mr. Prairie, this is most distracting, what shall I do?
OUR FAMILIAR: Why, Your Honor, point to the British Flag and
tell them this is an English speaking community and they must
yield to circumstances.
HIS HONOR: Ah! My friend, obvious reasons make such a course
The Prairie Illustrated, Calgary, 11 April 1891

The Graphic, LAC R9266-1445, Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana, 22 October 1892

Sans Merci. Without Mercy. (A farmer is fighting a native in mortal combat in a grainfield. It depicts the struggle of civilization against savagery.), Louis-Philippe Hébert, 1893

“The third clause provides that celebrating the “Potlatch” is a misdemeanour. This Indian festival is debauchery of the worst kind, and the departmental officers and all clergymen unite in affirming that it is absolutely necessary to put this practice down.” 
                                                                                Sir John A. Macdonald, 1894

"Master of woodcraft, he [the Indian] was seen at his best when hunting. Upon the war-path he was cruel, tomahawking, scalping and torturing with fiendish ingenuity. A stoic fortitude when himself tortured was about his own heroic quality. In his village among his own clansmen he spent his time gambling, story-telling, or taking part in some rude feast. In his domestic life the Indian was not without virtues, and his squaw and papooses were treated with somewhat rough and careless kindness. To his tribe he was usually faithful, though to his foes false and crafty. Indian religion was purest superstition."
W. H. P. Clement, History of the Dominion of Canada, 1895 [The textbook chosen for use in classrooms from sea to sea.]

Sun Dance, Cree Warriors, Battleford. LAC PA-028833, Geraldine Moodie, June 1895 [The Sun Dance was forbidden under the Indian Act of 1885. The ban was generally ignored and dropped from the Act in 1951.]

The Cattle Thief [Almighty Voice] by Pauline Johnson
"You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though
You robbed him first of bread . . .
How have paid us for our game? How paid us for
our land? . . .
When you pay for the land you live in, we'll pay you for
the meat we eat.
Give back our land and our country, give back our
herds of game . . .
And blame, if you dare, the hunger that drove him to
be a thief."

Public Notice. LAC June 1898

"Taking them altogether, the British Columbia Indians are remarkably industrious, enterprising, self-reliant, honest, sober and law-abiding. They are good neighbours."
                                                   Department of Indians Affairs, Annual Report, 1902.

Thomas Moore of the Regina Industrial School, Annual Report,
Department of Indian Affairs, 1904

                                             WITCH  DOCTOR
                            CROSBY  TEACHING  INDIAN  CHIEF

Thomas Crosby, Among the An-ko-me-nums, Missionary to the Indians of British Columbia, Toronto, 1907

Emily Carr, An Aboriginal School House, Lytton, B.C., M22155

"I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that this country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone. That is my whole point. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department. . ."
Duncan Campbell Scott, Head of Canada's Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932

Unidentified group except for Archibald Lampman (in hat) and Duncan Campbell Scott.  Groupe de personnes non identifiées, sauf en ce qui concerne Archibald Lampman (coiffé d'un chapeau) et Duncan Campbell Scott. LAC Jarvis/Harry Orr McCurry/Library and Archives Canada/C-056072, 1906?
[In the early 20th century, Duncan Campbell Scott was a prominent Canadian poet. He was also Deputy Superintendent of Canada's Department of Indian Affairs. This "Confederation Poet" is a controversial figure. Scott's poetry celebrates the Canadian wilderness and Canada's First Peoples. However, he is also responsible for implementing assimilation policies and forcing Aboriginal children to attend residential schools. ]

Sun Dance, Blackfeet Indians. LAC C-014106, John Woodruff, 1908.

“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance
to illness by habitating so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much
higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in
the policy of this Department, which is being geared towards the final
solution of our Indian Problem."

                                                                           Duncan Campbell Scott, 1910

Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier 1910, Kamloops - Skeetchestn Indian Band

Indians at the "Stampede", Winnipeg, 1913. Patent and Copyright Office, LAC, PA-030064

Potlatch given by Bob Harris at Alert Bay, 1914. J. Welsh, Royal BC Museum, PN 2307-b

Dancers posing in potlatch regalia, Fort Rupert, 1914, Edward B. Curtis [Potlatching was made illegal in 1884. The law was enforced in 1921. Potlatching was made legal again in 1951.]

Une Veillée d'autrefois. LAC Acc. No. 1993-209-12, Edmond-J. Massicotte, 1915

This stained glass window is found in Brantford, Ontario, on Six Nations territory. It was dedicated to Susan Hardie, a part Aboriginal teacher, who had attended the Anglican-run residential school as a child, by former students in 1960. She taught at the school for 50 years and was known as one of the kinder staff members.

"Here were a people [Inuit] with less resources than any other people on earth, and yet they were the happiest people I have ever know."
                                          Robert J. Flaherty, director, Nanook of the North, 1922


"In Canada, relocations were employed ostensibly to further the official goals – protection, civilization and assimilation – of Canadian Native policy."
                                                        Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian, p.89

The Vanishing American, theatrical poster, USA, 1925

"[Duncan Campbell Scott] dismissed the high death rate in residential schools exposed by Dr. Peter Bryce in 1907, insisting that] 'this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared toward the final solution or our Indian Problem."
                                                        Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian, p. 114


"From 1927 until the early '50s, there was a law in Canada that forbade Indians to raise money and hire lawyers to fight land claim suits. They had actually been shut out from using the law on the basis of race; this was a discriminatory law that would have done credit to the apartheid regime of South Africa."
                                                                                                     Ronald Wright

141. Every person who, without the consent of the Superintendent General expressed in writing, receives, obtains, solicits or requests from any Indian any payment or contribution or promise of any payment or contribution for the purpose of raising a fund or providing money for the prosecution of any claim which the Tribe or Band of Indians to which such Indian belongs, or of which he is a Member, has or is represented to have for the recovery of any claim or money for the said Tribe or Band, shall be guilty of an offense and liable upon summary conviction for each such offence to a penalty not exceeding two hundred dollars and not less than fifty dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months."

                                                                                           The Indian Act, 1927
[This section of the 1927 Indian Act placed an impossible burden upon Bands that wished to take legal action against the Crown or file a claim:]

"The 1927 Indian Act amendments, which were in force until 1951, brought about a shameful period in Canada's  history. Our people were, by Canadian law, virtually forbidden to leave our reserves without permission from the Indian agent, who now controlled almost every aspect of our lives, and the courts were effectively cut off to us as an avenue for addressing a land claim against the government. Our reserves began to resemble the internment camps that were set up during the world wars for enemy aliens."
                                        Arthur Manuel, Unsettling Canada A National Wake-up Call

"Every Indian child between the full age of seven and sixteen years who is physically able shall attend such day, industrial or boarding school as may be designated by the Superintendant General for the full periods during which such school is open each year."
                                                  Section 10, Indian Act, Statutes of Canada, 1930

"A white man, long ago, spoke to an Indian sitting on the large end of a log. 'Please, sit over!' he said. The Indian saw no harm in it; he move a bit and allowed the stranger to sit on the log beside him. The newcomer repeated, 'Sit over!' So he did. But it was not enough. 'Sit over, sit over!' The Indian before long found himself at the small end of the log. The white man declared, 'The log now is my own!'"
               Marius Barbeau, "Our Indians – Their Disappearance", Queen's Quarterly, 1931

"Life has indeed been made 'easier' for them [Indians] since the introduction of the rifle, the steel axe and the iron pot, not to speak of clothing, castile soap and a decent language! Formerly they idled away their existence in squalor and crass ignorance. Their idiom was  a mere growl from the throat Their tools were of stone and antler, and their artifacts fit only for a bonfire. Their companions were the animals of the forest or the prairies. Their dwellings were huts and movable tents, where they froze in winter and starved between seasons. In a word, they were uncivilized; they were savage men of the wilds with unaccountable ways of their own; they were heathens, the true wards of Satan, with no knowledge of God and his favourite son, the white man."
                                               Marius Barbeau, Our Indians, Queen's Quarterly, 1931

"Requesting the Indian to exchange the skilful manipulation of pole, paddle, and snowshoe, in which his soul rejoices, for the drudgery of a shovel on a small backwoods farm, the first step in the reclaiming of which requires him to destroy the forest on which he looks as a home, is to ask an artist to dig graves."
                                                         Grey Owl, The Men of the Last Frontier, 1931

"The main reason for improvement in attendance at Indian schools is a growing conviction on the part of our wards that their children must be better fitted for the future. Fewer and fewer children are finding it possible to live by the chase and they are turning towards education to prepare themselves for encroaching civilization."
Duncan Campbell Scott, Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the year ending 31 March 1931.

At a time when the First Nations population had dropped to 108,000 and many people thought they would not survive, Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of the Dept. of Indian Affairs issued a report giving the false impression that First Nations were prospering. The cartoonist likely drew this sarcastic cartoon in response to his report.

Dr. Duncan Campbell Scott. LAC PA-165842/ e010752290, Yousuf Karsh, 16 Sept. 1933

The Missionary and his sister shook hands with us and asked us to tea the same day. Louisa could not go, but I went.
The Missionary said, "It is good for the Indians to have a white person stay in their homes; we are at a very difficult stage with them––this passing from old ways into new. I tell you savages were easier to handle than their half-civilized people . . . in fact it is impossible . . . I have sent my wife and children south . . ."
"Is the school here not good?"
"I can't have my children mix with the Indians."
A long pause, then, "I want to ask you to try to use your influence with Louisa and her husband to send their boys to the Industrial boarding-school for Indians. Will you do so?" asked the Parson.
The Missionary's eyes and his sister's glared at me through their spectacles like fish eyes.
"Why will you not?"
"In Louisa's house now there is an adopted child, a lazy, detestable boy, the product of an Indian Industrial School, ashamed of his Indian heritage. All Louisa's large family of children are dead, all but these two boys, and they are not robust. Louisa knows how to look after them––there is a school in the village. She can send them there and own and mother them during their short lives. Why should she give up her boys?"
"But the advantages?"
"And the disadvantages!"

Louisa and I sat by the kitchen stove. Joe, her younger son, had thrown himself across her lap to lull a toothache; his cheeks were thin and too pink. Louisa said, "The Missionary wants us to send our boys away to school."
"Are you going to?"
"––Maybe Jimmy by and by––he is strong and very bright, not this one––."
" I never saw brighter eyes than your Joe has."
Louisa clutched the boy tight. "Don't tell me that. They say shiny eyes and pink cheeks mean–– . . . If he was your boy, Em'ly, would you send him away to school?"

                                                                 Emily Carr, "Friends," Klee Wyck, 1941



Dick Patrick
"When my people [First Nations] went into Vanderhoof, they were not allowed to go into restaurants, use public toilets, and had to come in the back door of a grocery store to buy groceries. We [Dick Patrick and King George] spoke for a long time about the injustice to my people. He told me he would endeavor to help my people."
Dick Patrick, awarded the Military Medal in 1944.
 [After the war Dick was arrested, charged with disturbing the peace, and sentenced to six months in prison on nine different occasions for entering a restaurant in Vanderhoof that refused to serve First Nations people.  He was never served a meal.
                                                  – see Eric Jamieson, The Native Voice, pp.103-05]

"Thou Shalt Tell Lies," Cree students attending the Anglican-run Lac la Rouge Mission school in La Rouge, March 1945, NFB of Canada, PA-134110.

Two Cree girls in their beds in the girls' dormitory at All Saints Indian Residential School, Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan, March 1945. LAC PA-166582, NFB, Bud Glunz

Canada; Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys, LAC, PA-023095

Jimmy Sewid and other fishermen from 'Namgis First Nation pulling in a fishing net. LAC /e011051640, Canada. Dept. of Manpower and Immigration

Indian women [First Nations] work with speed and skill in the canning of crabs in a factory located in Masset (B.C.). LAC Canada. Dept. of Manpower and Immigration

"One day back in Canada my buddies took me down to a hotel. I had been a soldier for one year and I had on my uniform. I went into the hotel with them and sat down and they would not serve me because I was an Indian. The law at that time was that they were not supposed to serve an Indian. Just think, I was a soldier."
                                                                                        Andrew George, 1946

Left to Right: Dr. P.E. Moore Director, Indian and Northern Health Services, Department of National Health and Welfare, Ottawa; Hon. Paul Martin, Minister of National Health and Welfare; W.G. Weir, M.P. for MacDonald, Manitoba; Dr. J.G. Fyfe, Director of the Brandon Sanitorium for Indians; Dr. E. Ross, Medical Director for the Manitoba Sanitorium Board; J.E. Matthews, M.P. for Brandon; and Dr. W.J. Wood, Regional Director of Indian and Northern Health Services for Manitoba. Photo taken at Brandon Sanitorium for Indians, Brandon, Manitoba, LAC

"I feel and have always felt that our administration of the affairs of Indians forms one of the sad and sorry pages in our Canadian history . . . Our treatment of Indians in Canada constitutes a brutal and unwarranted repudiation of every sentiment that is contained in the doctrine of the Golden rule."
                                                                Gerry McGeer, former MLA and MP, 1947

"I feel that in granting them the franchise, this Government has recognized a principle which should have been invoked long ago. These new voters are the only true Canadians; the rest of us came to this country from other lands."
                                                           Hon. Gordon Wisner, attorney general, 1949

The annual Sun Dance ceremony at the Blood Indian Reserve, near Cardston, Alberta.  [La cérémonie annuel «Sun Dance» à la Reserve indienne Blood, près de Cardston, Alberta.] LAC Copyright : Government of Canada, Gar Lunney, August 1953

1960 In Hiawatha Council Hall on occasion of federal by-election. All First Nations living in the riding get to vote. LAC, PA-123915

Hereditary Chief Alfred Scow of Gilford Island became the first Aboriginal person in BC to graduate from law school in 1961.

"When you are in the mountains, you are as much a part of nature as the leaf that falls from the tree, the water in the creek, the rain from the sky. You are no greater  than these, only part of it all:' As in the beginning, world without end!' Death is all around you, thousands of years of death, unmourned dead things absorbed into the making of new life."
Maisie Hurley, newspaper article (unknown paper and date); reprinted in The Native Voice, December 1962

Chanie Wenjak froze to death when he ran away from a residential school in 1966.

"The Stranger Official Video" – Gord Downie – Secret Path
“The Stranger” is the first full chapter and song of The Secret Path. Adapted from Gord Downie’s album and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel, The Secret Path chronicles the heartbreaking story of Chanie Wenjack’s residential school experience and subsequent death as he escapes and attempts to walk 600 km home to his family.

"Don't knock a man down and then ask why he lives in the dirt. Don't strip a man of his clothing and then ask why he is naked. Don't filch a man of his authority, his right to rule his home, his dignity as a man, and then ask him why his culture is substandard."
Chief Dan George, 1966

"In the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man's strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe. When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.
My nation was ignored in your history textbooks–they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank your firewater, I got drunk–very, very drunk.
Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? Shall I thank you for the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back?"

                                                                  Chief Dan George, Speech, 1 July 1967

"We, the Indians of the Yukon, object to . . . being treated like squatters in our own country. We accepted the white man in this country, fed him, looked after him when he was sick, showed him the way of the North, helped him to find the gold; helped him build and respected him in his own rights. For this we have received very little in return. We feel the people of the North owe us a great deal and we would like the Government of Canada to see that we get a fair settlement for the use of the land."
                                                                                   Elijah Smith, address 1968

"Before I can be usefully participating and contributing citizen I must be allowed to further develop a sense of pride and confidence in myself as an Indian. I must be allowed to be a red tile in the Canadian mosaic, not forced to become an unseen and misplaced white tile."
Harold Cardinal

"The federal government is not prepared to guarantee the aboriginal rights of Canada's Indians. It is inconceivable that one section of a society should have a treaty with another section or a society. The Indians should become Canadians as have all other Canadians."
                                          Pierre Elliot Trudeau, speech, Vancouver, 11 August 1969

"Where are the Eskimo managers of Hudson's Bay posts? Where are the Eskimo police, the radio operators, the nurses? I'll tell you where they are. They are down at the welfare office drawing relief."
                                                                           Duncan Pryde, Time, 2 May 1969

"Red Power is a viable alternative to many young Indians, and violence is not too remote. Anyone who has been stepped on long enough may reach the point where he says 'no more'."
                                                                      Philip Paul, Chief of B.C. Tsartlip Band


"Don't ask me if there'll be racial violence. There is already is – against us. Now the question is whether we will fight back."
                                                                                          Dr. Howard Adams


"It's certainly weird that the most blue-blooded Canadians of all, the people who were here first, should be treated like refugees from steerage."
                                                                                              Kahn-Tineta Horn

"The federal government is not prepared to guarantee the aboriginal rights of Canada's Indians. It is inconceivable that one section of a society should have a treaty with another section of a society. The Indians should become Canadians as have all other Canadians."
Pierre Elliot Trudeau, speech at a Liberal dinner, Vancouver, 11 August 1969

"The only good Indian is a non-Indian."
Harold Cardinal, The Unjust Society, 1969

Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chretien Chief Wilmer Nadjiwon, Toronto Star Licence tspa_0037817f. 1969

"Since our forebears first set foot on this continent, the white man has been taking from the Indians: his food, his source of livelihood, his traditional way of life. The only thing the white man has refused to accept is perhaps the most valuable thing he had to offer: his unique sense of values."
                                                                                           Joe Rosenthal, 1971

"What for the Europeans was the gradual growth of settlement, economic expansion, material success, was for the Indian peoples a slow contraction of their country, social disintegration, a growing subjugation and the erosion of hope."
                                                                               Stanley B. Ryerson, 1973

"We the Dene of the Northwest Territories insist on the right to be regarded by ourselves and the world as a nation."
                                                                        Dene Declaration, 19 July 1975

"The attitude that there are only two 'founding' cultures in Canada is typical of the colonialist, and even racist, attitudes which Native Canadians are forced to contend with."
                                                                                         Harry W. Daniels, 1979


"The real issue is not whether technology is good or bad but rather whether or not the native people are going to have access to the decision making process. The question is not whether there is going to be any development in the north, the question is: are native people going to help decide what kind of development is going to take place."
                                                                                              Duke Redbird, 1980

[The Constitution Express train trip from Vancouver to Ottawa protested the lack of aboriginal rights in the proposed constitution. Over 1000 people took the train to Ottawa. Nov. 1980]

"25. The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including
• (a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and
• (b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired"

Charter of Rights and Freedom 1982

Gifts that will be given to guests at a potlatch held by Tlakwagila in 1983.

"I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past [making apologies]. It cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time."
                               Pierre Elliot Trudeau, comment made to Brian Mulroney, 1984

Truly and Humbly: Memories of the first apology
The history of the United Church apology (the first church to apologize for residential schools in 1986)

1987, Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR1998.0870.0145,  [Premier Don Getty, left; Prime Minister Mulroney, centre]

"I don't feel proud that there are ranches in Canada that are bigger than ten or fifteen reserves put together. Do you?" [response to an invitation to help celebrate 175 years of Confederation and the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus]
                                                 Georges Erasmus, The Canadian Forum, Jan. 1990

1992 06 29, Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR1998.0870.0608

1990 06 30, Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR2004.0675.0517.30 July 1990

1990 08 26, Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR2004.0675.0517.26 August 1990.0002

"We want to be recognized as a distinct society too. If the government is willing to recognize the distinct society in Quebec and give it powers to preserve and protect their culture . . . why can't the same treatment be given to us."
                                             Elijah Harper, Winnipeg Free Press, 25 September 1991

"We should . . . [be] proud to celebrate Alexander Mackenzie as a man who embodied the very essence of perseverance. . . Mackenzie overcame all odds in exploring the untamed wilderness that would one day become part of a unique country. But he is a footnote in our history, an unknown in most parts of Canada. Mackenzie was an historical failure. Why? Because he didn't murder, maim, rape, pillage or torture. . .  He negotiated rather than confronted. He traded rather than stole. He respected the ways of the cultures he encountered rather than trying to change them. Ho hum."
                                             Jerry MacDonald, The Vancouver Sun, 11 August 1993

"Generations of children were wrenched from their families and were brought up to be ashamed to be Indians."
                                  BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Hogarth, Port Alberni, 1995

"Canada was taking shape: French roots, Loyalist perseverance and Native enclaves. Three people united in their separate tales of defeat."
Will Ferguson, 1997

"The dominant theme found in Canadian history textbooks was the expansion of European civilization in America. Give that way of framing the story, there was no real place for Native people except in so far as they obstructed the process. History was something that happened to other people. . . Once the Iroquois was end the Indians go missing from the textbooks, reappearing briefly [in 1812, 1869, and 1885] . . . Otherwise they have no role to play."
                                                                    Daniel Francis, National Dreams, 1997

"The Delgamuukw decision of 1997 provided judicial affirmation of Aboriginal Title by the country's highest court."

"An indigenous culture with sufficient territory, and bilingual and intercultural education, is in a better position to maintain and cultivate its mythology and shamanism.  Conversely, the confiscation of their lands and imposition of foreign education, which turns their young people into amnesiacs, threatens the survival not only of the people but of an entire way of knowing.  It is as if one were burning down the oldest universities in the world and their libraries, one after another — thereby sacrificing the knowledge of the world’s future generations."
               Jeremy Narby, “The Cosmic Serpent:DNA and the Origins of Knowledge.” 1998

Stained Glass Window in Parliament Commemorating the Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, Government of Canada, 2008,

Prime Minister Harper offers full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system
" For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated over 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families and communities. In the 1870's, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate Aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools. Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant cultures. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child." Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country. . .
The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time, and in a very real sense we are now joining you on this journey. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly."

                                                                  Stephen Harper, Ottawa, 11 June 2008

Canadian Federal Government Apology to First Nations - YouTube

[T.R.C. = Truth and Reconciliation Commission ]

The Hon. Frank Iacobucci releases report on First Nations people and the Ontario justice system
"Ontario’s justice system is in a "crisis" concerning First Nations people who are over-represented in the prison system yet cut out of participating in juries, says an independent review released Tuesday. Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci revealed 17 recommendations he said must be urgently implemented in order to get First Nations involved in the court process and sitting on juries. . .
It is clear that the jury system in Ontario, like the province’s justice system more generally, and its counterparts . . . has often ignored or discriminated against aboriginal persons," stated Iacobucci in his report on First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries.
If we continue the status quo, we will aggravate what is already a serious situation and any hope of true reconciliation between First Nations and Ontarians generally will vanish."

26 February 2013

"We must reinstall a national narrative built upon the centrality of the Aboriginal peoples' past, present and future. And the policies of the country must reflect that centrality, both conceptually and financially."
                                                                John Ralston Saul, The Comeback, 2014

"Why, for almost forty years now, have Aboriginal peoples won virtually every time they go to the Supreme Court? Because or history and the law, if fairly interpreted, cannot but re-establish our long-standing – long betrayed – agreements."
                                                             John Ralston Saul, The Comeback, 2014


"In Canada, the only good Indian was an assimilated Indian, and as very few of them accepted assimilation, we had very few good Indians."
                                                         Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, p.123

"I do not wish to celebrate Canada stealing our land. That is what Canadians will be celebrating on July 1, the theft of 99.8 per cent of our land, leaving us on reserves that make up only 0.2 per cent of the territories given us by the Creator."
                                                                                         Arthur Manuel, 2017

“No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Our Government is working together with Indigenous Peoples to build a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, government-to-government relationship – one based on respect, partnership, and recognition of rights."
                                       Justin Trudeau, statement on Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2017

Kent Monkman: History Painting for a Colonized Canada - The Scream


Our Canada 150 series continues with Subjugation of Truth by Kent Monkman.  This painting shows Chief Pîhtokahanapiwiyin  (Chief Poundmaker) and Chief Mistahi-maskwa (Chief Big Bear) sitting dejectedly before a table at which white men are signing away the chiefs’ freedom.

"Many of our people are very unhealthy and still suffer from postcolonial trauma, a result of the residential school experience, the establishment of a reserve system, government-defined citizenship, historical racism, and the marginalization of our economies."
                                                     Jody Wilson-Raybould, From Where I Stand, 2019

"Indian Act government . . . is not self-government . . . it is an impoverished notion of government where the Chief and council are, for the most part, glorified Indian Agents delivering federal programs and services on behalf of Canada . . . "Reconciliation" means confronting and ending the legacy of colonialism in Canada and replacing it with a future built on Indigenous self-determination."
                                                    Jody Wilson-Raybould, From Where I Stand, 2019

Poundmaker Cree Nation, Saskatchewan - May 23, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Elders, leaders and members of the Poundmaker Cree Nation –
It is a privilege to be here with you today to honour the life and legacy of Chief Poundmaker or Pihtokahanapiwiyin.
I would like to acknowledge that we are on the sacred lands of the Poundmaker Cree Nation in Treaty 6 territory.
It was here that Chief Poundmaker made his indelible mark on history –
Here that he earned his well-deserved reputation as a diplomat and peacemaker.
Here that he stood up for his people and demonstrated compassion in the face of persecution.
134 years later, we gather at the battle site to honour and remember the story of Chief Poundmaker.
We recognize that during his lifetime, Chief Poundmaker was not treated justly nor showed the respect he deserved as a leader of his people.
We know that the colonial perspectives which dominated relations between Indigenous peoples and the Crown did not allow for open and collaborative dialogue.
And we acknowledge that if we are to move forward together on the path of reconciliation, the Government of Canada must acknowledge the wrongs of the past.
We have the duty to take an honest look at this chapter of our shared history and make right by the Poundmaker Cree Nation.
It is my sincere hope that by coming together today and taking this important step together as equal partners, we can continue the important work of reconciling the past and renewing our relationship.
Oral tradition tells us that Chief Poundmaker’s role as an influential leader begins in 1873, with the conclusion of peace negotiations between the Cree and the Blackfoot nations.
Known as the “Peacemaker” by the Indigenous peoples of the Northern Plains, Chief Poundmaker had tried to maintain peaceful relations and open dialogue between the Cree and settlers both before and after the signing of Treaty 6 in 1876.

In 1876, Poundmaker, now a headman or minor chief, was part of the Cree delegation at Fort Carlton where Treaty 6 was concluded with Alexander Morris, Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories and Treaty Commissioner.
A powerful orator, Chief Poundmaker argued that the Government of Canada had to provide the appropriate assistance to the Cree as life in the Prairies was changing.
He requested assistance not only for the signatories of the Treaty, but also for future generations.
This included advocating for the Medicine Chest provision in Treaty 6.
Indeed, Chief Poundmaker was a visionary and an early advocate for universal health care. And his spirit and the strength of his convictions throughout the treaty negotiations continues to inspire his people to this day.
In 1881, Chief Poundmaker, as an acknowledged leader of his people, was selected to lead the Marquess of Lorne, son-in-law of Queen Victoria, on a journey from Battleford to Blackfoot Crossing.
Chief Poundmaker impressed the Marquess with his traditional teachings and his statesmanship.
In the years following the signing of Treaty 6, Chief Poundmaker, along with others such as Big Bear or Mistahimaskwa, pushed government officials to live up to the promises and obligations laid out in the Treaty, often with frustrating results.
By the winter of 1885, the combination of a depleted bison population, cuts to government aid and fundamental disagreements regarding the implementation of treaty promises resulted in wide-spread dissatisfaction in the Prairies.
In the push to settle Western Canada, and guided by colonial thinking and policies, the federal government sought to exert increased control over Indigenous peoples. Tension between the Canadian government, Métis, First Nations and settlers eventually amounted to a conflict known as the Northwest Resistance.
Government officials in Western Canada began to target Chief Poundmaker and his people, especially after members of his community were accused of looting in Battleford, as Poundmaker sought rations from Indian Affairs officials for his people.
Chief Poundmaker and his people came to be viewed as a threat.
On May 2, 1885, seeking reprisal for the purported looting, the Canadian Expeditionary Force followed the Cree back to their reserve and launched an attack where we now stand.
Right here, at battle site hill.
Led by Lieutenant-Colonel William Otter, more than 300 men attacked Poundmaker’s people, but after seven hours on the battlefield, Otter’s men were forced to retreat.
Though he did not participate in the battle, Chief Poundmaker saved many lives. At a critical time, he carried the pipe of a wounded war chief onto the battlefield, and used his considerable authority to stop the counterattack on Colonel Otter’s retreating troops, thereby avoiding more bloodshed.
Fearing further reprisal against his people, Chief Poundmaker attempted to negotiate a peace agreement with the commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Major-General Frederick Middleton.
Unable to come to an agreement, Poundmaker and his followers were arrested at Battleford on May 26, 1885.
Fuelled by mistrust and a lack of understanding, government officials held Chief Poundmaker, as the recognized leader of his people, responsible for the actions of his community and convicted him of treason-felony in August 1885.
While Chief Poundmaker unequivocally maintained his innocence, he was sentenced to three years in prison at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary.
Chief Poundmaker’s imprisonment meant denying members of his nation his strong leadership.
They were deeply affected by the harsh restrictions and deprivations imposed upon them by government officials.
The Nation was also forced to surrender their weapons, which left them unable to hunt and protect themselves.
Labelled as a rebellion band by the Government of Canada, the Poundmaker Cree Nation saw the reputation of their honoured Chief tarnished by his wrongful conviction and were forced to live without a Chief for over three decades.
Although Chief Poundmaker was released early from prison due to his deteriorating health, he died only four months after his release in 1886 while visiting his adopted father Chief Crowfoot at Blackfoot Crossing.
He was buried there and in 1967, his remains were brought back to the Poundmaker Cree Nation and buried here, at battle site hill.
Today, our government acknowledges that Chief Poundmaker was a peacemaker who never stopped fighting for peace.
A leader who, time and again, sought to prevent further loss of life in the growing conflict in the Prairies.
The Government of Canada recognizes that Chief Poundmaker was not a criminal, but someone who worked tirelessly to ensure the survival of his people, and hold the Crown accountable to its obligations as laid out in Treaty 6.
We recognize that the unjust conviction and imprisonment of Chief Poundmaker had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the Poundmaker Cree Nation.
Chief Poundmaker often spoke of the need to continue moving forward.
He said: “We all know the story about the man who sat by the trail too long, and then it grew over, and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened, but we cannot go back. Nor can we just sit beside the trail.”
Well, the Government of Canada has been sitting beside the trail for far too long.
And if we are to join the Poundmaker Cree Nation on the path of reconciliation, we need to acknowledge the past and build a foundation for healing and renewed understanding.
And so, as an important symbol of our desire to revitalize our relationship with the Poundmaker Cree Nation, I’m here today on behalf of the Government of Canada to confirm without reservation that Chief Poundmaker is fully exonerated of any crime or wrongdoing.
I would also like to offer all members of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, past and present, an apology for the historic injustices, hardships and oppression suffered by Chief Poundmaker and your community, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians.
The Poundmaker Cree Nation has long advocated to hear these words from the Government of Canada.
And it is your dedicated efforts that have brought us here today to honour Chief Poundmaker, the way he should have been many, many years ago.
To ensure that his legacy is celebrated for years to come. To help right past wrongs.
As Poundmaker’s people, the hardships you have overcome reflect his courage, his belief and his vision that you would go on as a strong and vibrant people.
You have always known that your Chief deserved to be respected and celebrated.
Now, all Canadians will have the opportunity to learn and understand the true history and legacy of Chief Poundmaker.
Before being sentenced to imprisonment, Chief Poundmaker stated: “Everything that is bad that has been laid against me this summer, there is nothing of it true. … I did everything to stop bloodshed. If I had not done so, there would have been plenty of blood spilled this summer …”
In 1885, Chief Poundmaker was treated as a criminal and a traitor.
In 2019, we recognize the truth in his words that he – as a leader, statesman and peacemaker – did everything he could to ensure that lives were not needlessly lost.
It has taken us 134 years to reach today’s milestone – the exoneration of Chief Poundmaker.
I know that the exoneration and apology I have offered today cannot make up for what has been lost.
But it is my hope that these words can mark a new beginning. That this day leads us to a brighter future, as we continue to walk together on the path toward reconciliation. A path Chief Poundmaker charted for us all so many years ago.
It is my hope that we can make the next century a shared legacy with a proud history, dedicated to the spirit of Chief Poundmaker, honoured leader of his people.
Thank you.

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"Now, is it [our history] perfect? Of course not, but we must never allow political correctness to erase what made us who we are. We can and should celebrate the giants of our history. We can look to the past, acknowledge and learn from our mistakes and celebrate achievements at the same time. If we look back on our history and our leaders and see only blemishes, we miss out on a beautiful story of a country that has progressed into one of the safest, freest and most prosperous in the world.
Because despite those who wish to sweep some of these leaders under the rug, they have left their mark not only on our country but on the entire world and they are worthy of honour and respect."

                 Andrew Scheer, defending men like Sir John A. Macdonald, 18 October 2019