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First Nations — Premières nations

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Multiple Perspectives - perspectives multiple

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

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

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

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.

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

Red Lake 1825 LAC c001942k

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

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

"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

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

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

"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

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

"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

"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

"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 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

"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

"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

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

"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

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.

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

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

"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

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

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

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.]

"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.

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

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.]

Danse au Château Saint-Louis. LAC Acc. No. 1989-472-1, George Heriot, 1801

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

"[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:]

"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

"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

"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

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

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

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.

"O God! Like the Thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea. I shall grab the instruments of the white man's success–his education, his skills, and with these new tools I shall build my race into the prudent segment of your society. Before I follow the great Chiefs who have gone before us, O Canada, I shall see these things come to pass."
                                                                    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

"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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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

Statue Joseph Brant Shelley Niro LAC PA-195041

"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

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

"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