Canada is viewed internationally as a peaceful country, but not many people know about the dark history behind it involving the culture genocide of First Nation people. During Social Study this year, we got a chance to learn about residential schools and the abuses that First Nations children went through. Later on, we started the confederation role play, where I decided to try something out of my comfort zone by choosing Tecumseh, a First Nation leader, as my character. Through this character, I saw the opposite of fairness, happiness, and peacefulness. My character didn’t have any impact on the confederation because he was long dead, however, later research shown that First Nations were excluded from confederation. Not a single First Nation leader was invited to any of the three conferences. This led to my topic/ question for this post:
How were the First Nations in Canada treated before and after Confederation?
This topic relates to the curriculum’s big idea of perspective, continuity and change and significance. Confederation is a major success in Canadian’s history from politician’s view but viewing it from First Nations people’s perspective, it was rather a disaster. The First Nations people in Canada were treated much differently before and after the confederation as the British colonies’ attitudes towards them change dramatically. Lastly, in the multicultural nation of Canada, First Nations people are speaking up more. Their stories made us realized the significant mistake we, the Canadians, have made in the past.
Before confederation, even before the war of 1812, the First Nations people and the British Colonies were getting along quite well. The British needed the First Nations people’s support for military purposes. They treated the First Nations people with respect and love. In 1793, Governor Simcoe bought land along the Bay of Quinte from the Mississauga Indians, and turned it over to Mohawks who had lost their land in the United States. Furthermore, Lord Dorchester realized that treaties weren’t being signed properly. He banned the usage of alcohol during treaty signing. He made new rules of keeping a proper copy of all treaty transactions, and treaty were to be made with “great solemnity and ceremony according to the ancient usages and customs of the Indians”. Lord Dorchester’s rules became the basis of all treaty signing in Canada. Treaty signing remained a significant part during that period of time. As one First Nations stated:
The treaties must not be forgotten. We must remind our children of this.
After the War of 1812, and the Napoleonic War, many British officers flooded into Canada as they were promised with lands by the British Government. By 1830, pages and pages of treaties were signed with the First Nations regarding mass land ownerships. However, after 1836, the agreements of the Niagara Treaty of 1764, of giving natives gifts each year, began to disintegrate. After more and more land are acquired from the First Nations, reserves were being made for those First Nations that gave up their land.
1867, after the Dominion of Canada was formed. However, the lands west and northwest of Ontario, called Rupert’s land, was under the control of Hudson’s Bay Company. Canadian first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald decided to acquire these lands. Two years after Confederation, Hudson’s Bay company sold Rupert’s land to the Canadian Government for the fee of 1.5 million. With Hudson’s Bay Company retaining 1/20th of the land. This was done without the acknowledgment of the First Nation people which led to many rebellions. The most known rebellion was the Red River Resistance, led by Metis leader, Louis Riel. A famous quote by Riel during the resistance:
In a little while it will be over. We may fail. But the rights for which we contend will not die.
A decade after the Red River Resistance in 1870, Residential schools were established directed towards First Nations children. These children were taken away from their parents and were sent to these school where they were being taught how to be white. Over 90 percent of the children suffers from some sort of abuses. It wasn’t till almost one hundred years after Canadian Government realized their mistake and shut down all of the residential school in Canada. Soon after, reconciliation happened in hope of rebuilding a healthy relationship with First Nations. Here is the link to my blog about reconciliation, a topic that I focused on during earlier stage of the study.
From 1700 – 2000, over the span of 300 years, our relationship with the First Nations people shifted hugely with the main turning point being the Confederation. From a Canadian citizen’s perspective, we learn about this part of our history, understand the significance of the wrong actions we took, and try our best to make reconciliation happen. From a First Nations person’s perspective, learn to forget, and learn to forgive, and most importantly, learn to rebuild a healthier relationship with Canadian Government.