National Aboriginal Day: My Thoughts on Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European Colonizers: Past, Present, Future – By Kelsey Darnay

As a part of my Indigenous Peoples course my final exam was an essay outlining the relationship between Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European colonizers, including the past, present, future. As today is National Aboriginal Day, I thought it would be important to share my thoughts on how I see the relationship between two from an Indigenous perspective. There is a lot of work to be done in the present and the future to heal and move forward to a better relationship.

Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European Colonizers: Past, Present, Future

After the European “discovery” of North America and the ‘Indians’, their goal was to benefit and profit from the land’s resources. Trading was already a developed network amongst different Indigenous bands in North America and trading naturally developed between the European explorers and the Indigenous bands that they encountered (Payne, 2004). By the 1600’s trade between the Indigenous and the French became ritualized because of the demand of beaver fur that was fueling the economy of New France (Payne, 2004). These trades benefited both parties, although the French did not want to rely on the Indigenous people for trade and therefore wanted to settle within Quebec and become self-sufficient.
The French were not the only ones in the trading business, other Indigenous groups were also dependent on the fur trade for their own economy and this created tension between opposing groups (Parrott, 2006). The fur trade was not the only tension during this time – the British and French were struggling for supremacy in North America (Eccles, 2006). These conflicts resulted in war, like the 7 Years War. The opposing sides, France and Britain, depended on Indigenous allies throughout the war. It ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1763 where Canada was formally ceded to the British (Eccles, 2006). After this treaty there was no longer any need for Indigenous allies and this was shown when the Indigenous peoples were not invited to the signing of the treaty. This act led the Indigenous peoples to believe that conflict with the Europeans was unresolved. Chief Pontiac decided to lead a pan-tribal resistance against the English colonial rule. The Europeans did not take this Indigenous resistance seriously, and therefore did not prepare a defense. British General Amherst believed that the Indigenous people were ‘less evolved’ and therefore incapable of military strategy. The British security was shook because Pontiac had a lot of early success due to his strategic attack plan. This resistance led to the realization of Indigenous power, which eventually led to England recognizing Indian sovereignty. Therefore land that had not already been ceded to or purchased by England was reserved for Indigenous people.
The Europeans eventually wanted the land that the Indigenous people were living on for resource extraction, settlement, and development. There was a shifted European interest from allies to active colonizer. In order to peacefully colonize, Indian land treaties were made with the Indigenous peoples. The point of treaties was to convince the Indigenous peoples to cede their land for colonization benefits, in return for profit. In the changing times the Indigenous populations were in need of money and goods in order to support themselves. A major focus of the Canadian Government during the period of treaty making was to introduce the First Nations to agriculture so that they could develop self-supporting communities, like the colonizers. This push towards agriculture was seen in many treaties through the goods included in the agreements. This shows that even through the treaties Europeans wanted to assimilate Indigenous people into Euro-Canadian culture. As outlined in the Gradual Enfranchisement Act and the Gradual Civilization Act, two pieces of legislation that would become the consolidated Indian Acts. Although treaties were meant to benefit both sides, they were understood differently from each side, which has led to issues that are still relevant today.
A major result from the treaties are Indian Reservations, which is land that put aside specifically for First Nations, Status Indians. Many of the numbered treaties also included schools for the bands that desired them (Canada, 1978). These schools, which were built across Canada, became the Indian Residential School System. These schools were a part of the government’s plan to forcefully assimilate Indigenous children into Eurocentric culture, and to get rid of Indigenous culture altogether. This legacy has created long lasting issues, like intergenerational trauma and other negative impacts. While the relationship between the Europeans and Indigenous peoples began as mutually beneficial, colonization has led to major issues for present day Indigenous peoples.

The legacy of the Indian Residential School System is still something that affects Indigenous peoples across Canada. The attempted forced assimilation of Indigenous people has created many issues. The actions that were taken at Residential Schools including physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual abuse in attempt to eradicate the Indigenous culture has been defined as cultural genocide. The traumatic events that took place at the Residential Schools have not only hurt the survivors of the system but also their families through intergenerational trauma. Many problems associated with Indigenous peoples like chronic health issues, poverty and a lack of parenting skills can be traced back to the Residential School System. The Government of Canada has recognized their part in this history. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Canada has begun to try to work towards changing their relationship with the Indigenous population for the better.
Although the recognition of the Residential Schools and the TRC is a step towards healing the relationship, serious action is needed to actually improve the relationship. There are 94 Calls to Action in the TRC and as a part of reconciliation the government needs to make the changes suggested (TRC, 2015). Implementing these actions will lead to a positive change in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the government. It will also improve the livelihood of Indigenous peoples instead of harming them. Reconciliation has just begun, it will take time to actually heal and meaningfully improve the relationship, likely generations. The government has taken its first steps in reconciliation by acknowledging that the actions taken against Indigenous children and communities were wrong.
Other Indigenous issues that are relevant today because of colonization are land claims and other issues resulting from treaty agreements. Throughout the development of Canada the European settlers needed to make treaties with the Indigenous population to peacefully extract resource, settle, and develop the land. Unfortunately, the Crown and the Indigenous peoples understood these treaties differently. Whereas the Crown understood the treaties as a purchase of land, the Indigenous peoples, and their descendants, understood it as a land sharing agreement, not as complete land surrender (Luby, 2010). These misunderstandings have led to court cases involving land claim issues, or other issues involving unfulfilled treaty promises. These court cases eventually led to the understanding that land, which was not ceded to the Crown, was in fact Indigenous land. The Canadian legal system acknowledged ‘Indian Land’ and Indigenous sovereignty. Although, this did not lead to the land claim issues being resolved. In 1974 the Office for Native Claims was opened, unfortunately it did not initiate remedial action.
Even today there are many land claim and treaty issues still being dealt with in the court systems. However, the government is working on resolving these issues on a case by case basis. The goal is to improve the Indigenous social, economic, health, and political situations that they are currently facing today. This improvement can happen through Indigenous rights including land rights and culture rights. Although, for this to happen on a truly meaningful level the contemporary issues that Indigenous people are currently dealing with need to be improved. This will only be able to happen with the help of the Canadian government. Furthermore, with the help of the government and the actions they take to help Indigenous peoples the relationship between the two populations will have a chance to reconcile and change into a more positive one.

The Canadian Government’s acknowledgement and recognition of their part in the colonization of Canada and how it affected the Indigenous population is a start to fixing the problems that it has caused. The negative impacts of colonization through the Residential School System and the results of the treaties that were made between the Crown and Indigenous peoples are still relevant today. Although Stephan Harper issued a formal apology in 2008 for Canada’s part in the Residential School System, many survivors did not accept the apology. According to political scientist Matt James, an authentic political apology tends to have eight requirements: recorded officially in writing, names the wrong in question, accepts responsibility, states regret, promise non-repetition, does not demand forgiveness, is not hypocritical or arbitrary, and undertakes – through measures of publicity, ceremony, and concrete reparation – to engage morally those in whose name the apology is made to assure the wronged group that the apology is sincere (Corntassel & Holder, 2008). The first statement only explicitly apologizes to those who were sexually and physically abused, and did not mention anything about the residential school policy itself or other cultural, political, social, economic and psychological impacts brought on by the schools (Corntassel & Holder, 2008). While a majority of the eight requirements have been met since the first statement, not all of them have. In order to fully reconcile and create a positive relationship between the government and the Indigenous population the eighth requirement must be met. This could happen through acting upon the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC.
It is the actions taken after an apology that prove regret and the want for forgiveness. Justin Trudeau has taken steps to acknowledge the contemporary Indigenous issues like the underdevelopment of reserves, water issues on reserves, and missing and murdered Indigenous women. However, there has yet to be solid actions taken in order to alleviate these issues. From now and into the future, serious actions must be taken by the government in order to fix the wrongs that colonization has created for the Indigenous people. A more dynamic and undivided attention to these issues will need to happen so that they can be resolved. Although this has currently proved to be a challenge, the continuation of working on these issues may lead to a better future. Resolving the Indigenous issues will lead to a better life for Indigenous people and hopefully generations to come. It will also lead to a better life for all Canadians and the generations that will follow.
The TRC has outlined what the Indigenous population needs from the government in order to help their social, economic, and political situation. Sections of the Calls to Action include child welfare, education, language and culture, health, settlement agreements, missing children and burial information, and more. Everything included in the Calls to Action have been affected by colonization and the Residential Schools. Implementing the Calls to Action will lead to a positive future for Indigenous peoples, the government, Canadians and their relationship. It will also lead to a future of reconciliation, which is what the Indigenous people want. What wrong was done to their people during colonization will be remembered in Canadian history. It does not need to impact the future generations and how they live their lives. Eventually the goal is for Indigenous people to not face problems that are a direct result of colonization. With the recognition and attention that Indigenous issues currently have in the government and media there is a good chance that positive change will happen. Although, a real effort must be taken by the government to ensure that this change will happen to make a better future. Underfunding and underservicing First Nations communities and children must come to an end. This will create a positive relationship between the future government and future generations of Indigenous peoples.

Canada. Department of Indian Affairs Northern Development. Treaty No. 3 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Saulteaux Tribe of the Ojibbeway Indians at the Northwest Angle on the Lake of the Woods with Adhesions. Ottawa, Ont.: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery, 1978.

Corntassel, Jeff, and Cindy Holder. “Who’s Sorry Now? Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru.” Human Rights Review 9, no. 4 (2008): 465-89.

Eccles, Wiliam John. “Seven Years War.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006. Accessed April 5, 2017.

Payne, Michael. The Fur Trade in Canada. Toronto: J. Lorimer, 2004.

Parrott, Zach. “Iroquois Wars.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006. Accessed April 5, 2017.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Author, Issuing Body. “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015.

World Water Day importance by Jamie Lupia

We cannot celebrate world water day and talk about how important the water we have access to is, without acknowledging who the water belongs to. Despite being a sought after commodity today, sold in tiny plastic bottles and pouring over kids at your nearest water park, water is and will always be especially precious to a specific group of people. Indigenous communities, especially the Native presence in Canada, has an incredible ownership over water and rights to be consulted about what is done with that water. These rights have been being ignored for all “150 years” of our country’s “birth”. When people are fighting against pipelines and other water pollutants — they are fighting in solidarity against the theft of Indigenous land and resources; against people who think they can take what is not theirs. I know in my Niagara region specifically, there is an incredible outreach from the Indigenous community against organizations that put a high economic value on water. This being said, water is not only an Indigenous issue — when there is a water crisis, it is an everyone issue. If you aren’t mad, you aren’t in the know. For example, Canadian government has for a long time approved a pipeline from western USA to Montreal, all along the watershed. This pipeline transports tar and oil. The catch is that it has 14,000 chances of leakage. They have fixed (I think) 2,000 potential spots. That still leaves tons of possibilities of pollution, not to mention that a lot of these possible pollution leakage spots are going through reserves or residential areas. Not to mention again that 20% of the entire world’s fresh water supplies comes from the Ontario lakes. What does this mean? The government, for economic purposes, is ignoring that they are at high risk of polluting 20% of the world’s fresh water supplies. Indigenous rights, Indigenous resources, but everyone’s problem. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, and I genuinely want people to talk about these issues and events. And if you don’t know why World Water Day is so important, you need to start waking up and joining the conversation. Please make yourself aware about how important water is, where it comes from, and who it belongs to. Water is not renewable.

A post about Canadian Treaties by Kelsey

I realize I am a bit late in writing this because Treaties Recognition Week was the first week of November, but the ignorance I found in my ANTH*3670 Indigenous People’s discussion thread has pushed me to share my response on a larger platform. I wanted to share to Storyteller because I feel that people who read these submissions want to learn through other individual’s experiences. Myself, being of Indigenous background, have had to deal with classmates who do not understand Canadian’s history with its Indigenous population. This can sometimes be very frustrating to me, but I also realize the oppressed history of the Residential School System legacy is to blame. For this exact reason, this is why I believe education is extremely important.

Teacher Discussion Question: Are We Really Treaty People?

Student Answer:
We Are Not The Product Of Treaties.
I would argue that the average Canadian is not the product of treaties so much as we are the natural conquerors. Indigenous people are the ones who abide by the limits treaties place. The average Canadian does not concern themselves with any particular treaty and if all treaties where suddenly destroyed it would not effect the life of the average Canadian but it would cause a crisis in the indigenous community in Canada. Treaties have been more of a way for Europeans to legitimize their conquering to new lands and the negotiate a system in which the indigenous peoples are essentially bought out so that they do not have to be conquered by force. Is this system the equal, no, but should it be, no. Indigenous peoples and Europeans where not at an equal balance of power historically or presently and it is only right that the more powerful decide the system of institution that will govern the lands. The treatment of indigenous peoples is not meant to be equal it is meant to be fair and many of the treaties have proven to be fair and those that where done through unfair means are resolved through the court system of the Canadian government, the dominant power, which is willing to accept its mistakes of unfair treatment if they have been fairly proven.

My Response:
Without treaties the European settlement that it is today would have never happened, therefore I disagree that the average Canadian is not a product of treaties, but all Canadians ARE products of treaties. Without many of the numbered treaties, Europeans would not be allowed to develop through “Indian Territory”. For example, Treaty 3 allowed “the federal government access to Saulteaux lands in present-day northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba in exchange for various goods and Indigenous rights to hunting, fishing and natural resources on reserve lands” (Filice, 2015). Without this treaty, Europeans would not have access to these lands and the resources of this land, which helped with settlement. Without treaties Canadian families would not be comfortably settled where they currently are.
I will agree that language barriers and cultural barriers led to a misunderstanding of certain terms of treaties. The First Nations saw the treaties saw the payments as a gift for the settlers to use the land (aka rent) where as the British Government took it as a purchase. Although, this misunderstanding is what has led to the current Land Claim issues that the government is working on resolving. There is even a Treaties Recognition Week, during the first week of November, which comes out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the country’s lack of understanding of its Indigenous population. The government of Ontario has implemented this week to “recognize the importance of treaties and to bring awareness to the treaty relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). David Zimmer, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has stated “Treaties are the reason Canada and Ontario exist as we know them today. All Ontarians, especially students, need to gain a better understanding of treaties. Treaties Recognition Week will provide ongoing opportunities to learn about the treaties that have shaped the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). Just on this statement alone I can argue that all Canadians, including the average Canadian, is the product of treaties made between the British Crown and the Indigenous people. The land you are living on is because a treaty was made, if you take away the treaties (if they were suddenly destroyed) the Indigenous people would claim the land that was rightfully theirs before the treaties and European settlers would have to find somewhere else to live.
Filice, Michelle. “Treaty 3.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017.
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Ontario Proclaims First Week of November Treaties Recognition Week”. Ontario Newsroom, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017

What I like about online discussions is the fact that we can build off of each other’s ideas, and respectfully state our own ideas. Although, when very under researched response to a historical topic, especially about my people, comes around I get a little offended. I felt so strongly about this that I felt I had to share.

Response to the Recent News from Trisha

I wanted to first and foremost say that whatever fear and anxiety you feel from this election is real and valid. The results are frightening for many and no one is 100% sure what will come from the new presidency. And while it may look like a very dark time, I don’t want anyone to get trapped in hopelessness. Now, more than ever, we need brave people who will fight for their rights and recognition in this world. 

The indigenous people of North America have taught me that even when there are so many policies, law, and violent measures in place to destroy you, you can rise above. Indigenous people were the first targets of the colonialism that North America is built upon, and they have proved that regardless of the measures to destroy them, they are here and their population is growing far faster than any other group in Canada. Through this, they’ve kept loving and giving their care to people and the earth regardless of the horrors they’ve been put up against. Those are the people to look up to rights now. The people who have been targeted, yet still seem to have enough hope, passion, and love to keep moving forward.

The people who have been told they aren’t worthy are the ones who will be the strongest and pull us out of this. We’ve already seen this in action, BLM groups have been fighting for justice, LGBTQ+ groups will not be silenced, islamophobia is being challenged, and feminist groups are pushing for equity. We need to fuel these groups by supporting them while ignoring the hate that is being spewed. Bring awareness to these groups, and help them fight. If you are outraged with this news, channel it into movement. We want those with privilege to use your privileges to create that change. Unity is what we need. Help others and ultimately everyone will benefit.

We want to raise your voice.

Please use our platform to speak out against these issues that you are passionate about. Please use our platform to facilitate change.
We want to get your message out. 

Keep your focus. Keep fighting. We can do this.


“The real reason behind Aboriginal issues” by Kelsey

My Grandmother (who has since passed away) grew up with her family on the Garden River First Nations Indian Reserve in Sault Ste. Marie.  I have been to Garden River recently; my first time just this past 2015 summer.  Being there gave me a sense of wonder, but also sadness.  It made me want to belong, but still unsure of how.  Indian Reserves are so beautiful with the community togetherness, the art, and the respect for nature.  It is truly something completely different than “the outside world”.  But it is also very sad and heartbreaking.  If you look beyond the art, the trees and the community centre you’ll see the poverty, the addictions, and the people who are pushed to the side.
My Grandmother was taken from her family when she was very young and brought to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School (IRS), away from her Reserve.  I am unaware of what happened to her during her time there, it is not something I would have ever wanted to ask her.  According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) the goal of the IRS was to “Kill the Indian in the Child”.  The Churches ran the schools and they wanted to force assimilation upon Indian children to make them more like them.  The way they forced this assimilation was through cultural genocide.  Indian children were physically, emotionally and sexually abused.  Upon arrival to the schools, their clothes were taken and their hair was cut, and that might not seem like a big deal, but each piece of clothing would have been handmade and beaded with beautiful art by someone who loved them.  During their stay they would be separated from their siblings, prohibited to participate in anything that was a part of their culture or their traditions, unable to speak their own language, and forced to learn the Catholic ways.  Even worse, some girls were sterilized so they could not have children of their own in the future, children died from malnutrition and abuse among other reasons, and not one child in the school system was shown any love.

I remember talking to my grandmother about Shingwauk once.  She told me when she tried to run away, the RCMP were the ones who dragged her back.  She told me there was no escaping and going back to your family.
The last IRS closed in 1996, meaning that residential schools existed in Canada for over 100 years.  The Canadian government never even acknowledged what they allowed to happen, until recently.  What happened is considered cultural genocide, but I think it was more than that.  What happened 50 years ago to my Grandmother, affects me today.  I was never taught anything about my culture growing up, my dad and his siblings were taught in school that it was shameful to be Native.  No one wanted to be associated with the word.  People would bully you if they knew what you were.  Instead of being taught what really happened to the Native people and its culture, people in school were taught to continue alienating them.  There are so many First Nations today who do not self identify because they are scared to – they are afraid of the government, afraid of the unknown, afraid to be discriminated against, and so much more.  Being Indian is such a powerful thing, but it can be used against someone in such negative way.  There are so many stereotypes surrounding Aboriginals.  Many that I have heard are; they are lazy and therefore do not care about school or jobs, they are alcoholics, they are drug addicts, they are bad mothers, they don’t care for progress, they have free land and houses, and they all live on Reserves.  I can tell you that these stereotypes are not true. Yes many Aboriginals have problems with alcohol and drugs, but it is from intergenerational trauma from the IRS.  Imagine growing up in the IRS without any love and being abused, and then years later having your own children.  How would you know how to raise a child with love, if you were never loved?  Being a good parent is something that is learned, you learn from how your parents raised you. How would someone raised in an IRS know how to raise their own children?  Many Aboriginals turn to alcohol and drugs because of what has happened to them, and the lack of opportunities Reserves can offer them.  As for schooling, Aboriginals already have a challenging relationship with education because of the history of residential schooling.  As well, there is no curriculum for the schools on reserves because reserves are federally run, not provincially.  The land Natives do have now is what was convenient for the government to “give” them.  It is usually out of the way and land that is considered awful compared to what these people would have been used to.  The government has broken many land treaties and Indians relocated as a result.  Every single person who is Indian is affect by what happen in the Indian Residential School System.  I grew up not knowing what it meant to be Native.  I did not know what my culture was.  I was never taught what happened to my people.  Today with all the personal research I have done, I still have troubles feeling like I really belong.  Sure I have my status card, but really that only means that the government has my name on a piece of paper saying I am Indian.  I have to continuously remind myself it does not matter what percentage I am, it only matters that I am.  I have to continuously search and learn about these things that were kept from me.  So many Aboriginal people have the same identity crisis that I have and it’s really sad to think about.  My culture was banned under the law, and we all have to work together to rebuild what was broken.
Through all our history, heartbreak and a government attempt to end our culture, we are still here, even if we have some issues.  It is something we need to be supported for, by our families, friends, strangers as well as something the government will have to step up and help us do.

National Aboriginal Day

National Aboriginal Day

June 21st is National Aboriginal Day.

It is very important to recognize the harm and effects the European settlers had on aboriginal cultures and people. Aboriginals in Canada have the highest rate of suicide and addictions than any other group. There are thousands of missing aboriginal women. Food prices and food accessibility problems on reserves are creating extremely high poverty rates. Schools on reserves are built in dangerous conditions and underfunded. Many of the children on reserves cannot finish their education because of accessibility, quality and location of the buildings, and lack of teachers. This is happening in Canada and this is not okay. Many Euro-Canadians treat the aboriginal population as if they are “others” or “not our problem” and many of their issues and struggles are ignored because of it.

What we would like to stress is that even though European settlers and the Canadian government have tried to destroy these cultures from every angle, these cultures are still present and the aboriginal population is expanding faster than other populations in Canada. We want individuals who are aboriginal to celebrate the fact that their culture is still here despite these efforts; we want individuals who aren’t aboriginal to educate themselves on aboriginal culture and become an ally to help them continue to keep their culture and people alive. We want everyone to work towards voicing concerns and working together to create equal accessibility to things that many of us take for granted like food, education, and medical services.

If anyone would like to share anything for National Aboriginal Day, please submit to us!