Chapter One: ANTIQUITY
A. Native Creation Myths
[A. Native Creation Myths]
Canada's First Nations peoples value a legacy of oral tradition that provides an account of each group's origins, history, and spirituality. Stories bind a community with its past and future, and oral traditions reach across generations, from elder to child, and bear witness to how women and men were created and populated the land. These descriptions of genesis are varied but all maintain that life began on the North American continent. The main objective is to provide the First Nations' perspective of their own creation.
Iroquois (Earth Diver)
Blackfoot (Earth Diver)
Igluik (World Parent)
Huron (World Parent)
Cree (World Parent)
Haida (Conflict and Robbery)
Tsimshian (Rebirth of a Corpse)
Mi'kmaq (Two Creators and their Conflicts)
Dene (Creation of Seasons)
B. Migration Theories
[B. Migration Theories]
Diverse scientific methods are employed in the construction of origin theories of Canada's First Nations peoples. Scientists place the origin of the human species outside of the Americas. Although they support theories of migration from Asia to the Americas, they disagree over when, how, or why the first humans came to the Americas. The scientific theories attempt to explain the time frame, method, and reason for these migrations.
Beringia Land Bridge
Continental Migration after Climatic Change
C. Prehistoric Periods (Eras of Adaptation)
[C. Prehistoric Periods]
The archaeological record of North America is classified according to lithic or stone manufactured materials. These lithic materials provide information about the hunter and the hunter's associated culture. Detailed studies of these lithic materials and of the cultural context of the site from where they were excavated allow archaeologists to construct models of First Nations lifeways.
D. Constructing the Antiquity Period
[D. Constructing the Antiquity Period]
In order to understand the complex histories and ancient cultures of the First Nations peoples, who did not leave written records in the European style, historians must examine the oral record, physical evidence, and a range of information gleaned through a host of relevant sciences. This information is often elusive and contradictory so innovative research strategies are used to create balance and harmony between these tangible and intangible sources.
E. Human Habitation and Settlement
[E. Human Habitation and Settlement]
The two principle migration theories of how humans arrived on the American continent, via the Beringia land bridge or as a result of trans-oceanic voyages, often conflict with the archaeological evidence of human habitation and settlement in South and North America. Other studies are carried out to expand upon the theories and they indicate that human migration to the Americas occurred through many different means and over a vast period of time. In fact, they support the hypothesis of three waves of distinct peoples migrating from Asia to the American continent.
Population Density Studies
Chapter Two: NATIVE CIVILISATIONS
Three different approaches to the historiography of pre-contact Native history are used in an attempt to convey the richness of Native lifeways. Three separate maps will divide Canada into sections based upon region, culture, and language. Links on each map will connect to a specific discussion.
A. Map One - Regional Approach
The histories of the First Nations peoples are fundamentally connected to the physical identity of Canada. The vastness and variety of Canada's climates, ecology, vegetation, fauna, and landforms separate, join, and define ancient peoples, as implicitly as cultural or linguistic divisions. Canada is surrounded north, east, and west with coastline and since the last ice age Canada has consisted of eight distinct forest regions. Adaptability is the essential component for survival within these demanding environments. Historic geographical models and population estimates are supplemented by oral histories, archaeological and anthropological evidence to derive knowledge of First Nations dwellings, food sources, and technology. Understanding how a people survived within their environment provides a greater insight into their history.
Great (Interior) Plains
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands
Atlantic and Gulf Region
B. Map Two - Cultural Approach
Culture is a concept used by anthropologists to define the adaptive systems unique to humanity. Hence, how groups of humans survive and utilise their environment is that which defines them as a people. Definitions of culture are used by historians as a context for the behaviours, movements, and activities of First Nations people. Cultural identities also reflect how groups of people survive together and adapt to local environments. Anthropologists and archaeologists agree that local adaptation is a long-term process with long-term results. The long-term process includes the development of social systems, warfare and diplomacy patterns, as well as economic and trade practices. This complex set of variables creates the equilibrium necessary to survive within an environment and is the abstract of human experience. Culture is the method and measurement of these adaptations to an environment.
C. Map Three - Linguistic Approach
Language is at the root of every First Nations culture. The identity of a people is in part created by language because language influences social lifeways and spiritual practices. Linguists have linked language diversity to length of human occupation. For example, Canada's Pacific Coast has the greatest number of languages. Because of this diversity, linguists have concluded that the Pacific Coast peoples have occupied their region longer than other First Nations groups have occupied their own regions. First Nations languages are classified into twelve separate groups of approximately fifty languages. The language groupings are broken down into different languages and dialects. Historians understand how groups identify themselves and interpret their environment through language. However, the migrations of the past two hundred years lt of European trade, disease, and resource depletion - have changed the linguistic landscape of Canada. Pre-European contact histories are developed in part by examining historic language relations and the associated cultures.
Chapter Three: EUROPEAN CONTACT
A. Possible Approaches to and Perspectives of Native History
An understanding of Canadian First Nations history is derived from several different sources so as to gain insight from diverse perspectives. Until the eighteenth century, written documents were primarily created by European males. Consequentially, Native histories are often hidden or obliquely represented. In constructing the history of First Nations peoples in Canada, the historian does not rely exclusively on written sources. Instead, a cross-disciplined, multi-layered approach is required.
B. Map - Native-European Encounters Preserved in Native Oral Tradition and European Written Narrative
A map showing areas of European contact with links to descriptions of the encounters as preserved in Native oral tradition and in European written documents. The economic, political, and social impact of European contact on the First Nations peoples will also be discussed. Themes are elaborated upon through links to specific examples.
1. Arctic: Inuit and Beothuk
2. Atlantic Gulf and St. Lawrence: Mi'kmaq, Huron, and Iroquois
3. Canadian Shield: Ojibway and Cree
4. Pacific Coast: Cowichan
5. Prairies: Blackfoot and Assiniboine
6. Plateau: Okanagan and Shuswap
7. Sub-Arctic: Chippewan and Dene
Chapter Four: TREATY EVOLUTION
A. Membership in Treaties
[A. Membership in Treaties]
In the 1870s, both the government of Canada and the Indians of the Canadian Prairies sought to make treaties that would define their relationship and establish rights to land and other resources. Such agreements were intended to extinguish native rights to the land and provide compensation to the Indians and a new means of livelihood. In order to formulate the treaties, a legal and political definition for "Indian" was needed. This established who was entitled to reserve lands and to the other compensations provided for in the agreements. The native definition of Indian was based primarily on lifestyle rather than bloodline. For most Natives, simply living a traditional aboriginal lifestyle made one an Indian, eligible for treaty terms.
B. Reasons for Negotiating and Signing Treaties
[B. Reasons for Negotiating]
For each of the Prairie Treaties, numbered one to seven, historical debate has arisen regarding governmental and Native reasons for negotiating the treaties as well as their roles in the negotiation and subsequent interpretation of the agreements. The numbered treaties signed between 1871 and 1877 in Western Canada have traditionally been presented as a move by a paternalistic government trying to safeguard the interests of the Indian bands. These bands were represented as passive participants who accepted the guidance of the government. Later, the Indians were portrayed as innocents who were victimised and cheated by an unscrupulous government that sought to undermine their rights. In reality, the Canadian government's motivations in treating with the Indians were not as benevolent or malevolent as they have been portrayed, while the Indians had strong motivations to enter into negotiation with a white authority. In each case, the government and the Indians saw treaties as necessary elements in achieving their very different goals.
C. Terms of the Prairie Treaties
[C. Terms of the Prairie Treaties]
The terms of the numbered treaties signed between the Indians of the Prairies and the Government of Canada in the 1870s were significantly influenced by the intentions and understanding of both parties. As such, the treaties did not constitute the full wishes of the government or the full wishes of the Indians. Since the treaties were signed, historians have debated the extent to which the government was exercising a benevolent plan towards the Indians as well as the extent to which the Indians understood and participated in the treaty negotiations.
D. Reaction to the Prairie Treaties
[D. Reaction to the Prairie Treaties]
After each of the seven Western treaties of the 1870s was signed, it was taken to Ottawa to be ratified (or approved) by the Privy Council and implemented by the Department of Indian Affairs. Meanwhile, on the Prairies, in consultation with their people, began the process of choosing reserves and settling on them to begin the transition to an agricultural lifestyle. In some cases, this transition was accomplished smoothly for both the government and the Indians, however, there were also complaints from both sides.