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

Written By

J.R. Miller
History Professor Emeritus
University of Saskatchewan

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