People of Aboriginal ancestry have had little to cheer about for much of the period from Confederation in 1867 to the end of the twentieth century. Although Native peoples were a significant factor in Canadian society in the early years after 1867, they soon faded from the thoughts and concerns of Canadians...
Indeed, they languished in neglect and oversight for many decades. Only over the last half-century, since approximately the Second World War...



Mi'kmaq Family, in Prince Edward Island, ca. 1900.

One group of Native peoples actually rated a mention in the founding document of the Canadian Confederation. The 1867 British North America Act contained a clause that listed "Indians and lands reserved for the Indians" as an area of jurisdiction assigned to the Parliament of Canada...



Photo of Chipewyan Indians at Brochet showing fur catch.  Reindeer Lake, Man.  1924; PA-019679.

Between the end of the First World War and the economic boom that followed the Second World War, Native peoples' economic and social position in Canada continued to decline. Although this period is part of what historians sometimes call the age of...



Native Police Officers in Training, COE (EA-170-1).

The same historians who described the period from Confederation to the Second World War as part of the era of the Native peoples' irrelevance often labelled what happened in the later twentieth cen...



At the end of the 1990s, the areas of the arts and communications clearly exemplify the liveliness of the Aboriginal world. The contrast between that picture and the demoralized state of Native communities in the early decades after Confederation is breathtaking. The highly diverse populations of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit generally shared a negative experience: marginalization in their lands, victimization by economic forces that operated beyond their control, and subjection to policies developed by other people and organizations for their assimilation. They all suffered, as had indigenous populations throughout the Western hemisphere since the end of the fifteenth century, horrific losses because of disease. Indeed, in the Canadian context, the poverty that sapped communities' and individuals' strength compounded the crisis. In spite of all these setbacks, however, Aboriginal peoples did not succumb and collapse. About 60 years after Confederation their numbers began to increase, and, by the end of the twentieth century, they totalled about four per cent of the country's population. Especially after the Second World War, and in particular thanks to increasingly assertive and effective Aboriginal political organizations, they re-established control of at least some important social institutions. Their cultural, spiritual, and artistic life was, in spite of continuing socio-economic problems of significant dimensions, vibrant and influential by the 1990s. Were strangers to investigate Canada at the beginning of the twenty-first century, more than 130 years after Confederation, they would certainly notice the Native peoples. No doubt the numbers, prominence, and influence of Aboriginal peoples would be one of the memories the visitors would take with them as they left Canada's shores.

Ontario's Indigenous Peoples

Ontario's Indigenous Peoples, Records that explore the rich history of Ontario's First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples

Archives of Ontario

Further Readings

Abel, Kerry. Drum Songs: Glimpses of Dene History. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993.

Coates, Ken. Best Left As Indians: Native-White Relations in the Yukon Territory, 1840-1973. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991.

Codere, Helen. Fighting with Property: A Study of Kwakiutl Potlatching and Warfare, 1792-1930. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966.

Dickason, Olive P. Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times.Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992.

Dyck, Noel. What Is the Indian 'Problem': Tutelage and Resistance in Canadian Indian Administration. St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1991.

Fisher, Robin A. Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890. 2d ed. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1992.

Harring, Sidney L. White Man's Law: Native People in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Jurisprudence. Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and University of Toronto Press, 1998.

McDougall, John. In the Days of the Red River Rebellion. Toronto: William Briggs, 1903.

McMillan, Alan D. Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1988.

Miller, J.R. Canada and the Aboriginal Peoples, 1867-1927. Historical Booklet, no. 57. Ottawa: Canadian Historical Association, 1997.

Miller, J.R. Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Miller, J.R. Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. 3d ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Patterson, E.P. The Canadian Indian: A History since 1500. Don Mills, ON: Collier-Macmillan, 1972.

Ray, Arthur J. The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

Ray, Arthur J. I Have Lived Here since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People. Toronto: Key Porter, 1996.

Tennant, Paul. Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1990.

Titley, E. Brian. A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

Tough, Frank. "As Their Natural Resources Fail": Native Peoples and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870-1930. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1996.

Written By

J.R. Miller
History Professor Emeritus
University of Saskatchewan


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