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Article

Deskaheh

Deskaheh (also known as Levi General), Cayuga chief and speaker of the Six Nations Hereditary Council (born on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario in 1873; died at the Tuscarora Reservation, New York, on 25 June 1925).

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James McKay

James McKay, Manitoba Métis politician, interpreter, guide, fur trader, Hudson’s Bay Company clerk and postmaster (born 5 February 1828 in Edmonton House, Alberta; died 2 December 1879 at St. James, Manitoba). A member of the Council of Assiniboia (1868–69), James McKay played a moderating role during the Red River Rebellion. He also served Manitoba as president of the Executive Council, Speaker of the Legislative Council and Minister of Agriculture, and was on the Council of the North-West Territories from 1873–75. Fluent in various Indigenous languages, McKay helped negotiate Treaties 1, 2 and 3 in the early 1870s. As a treaty commissioner for Treaties 5 and 6, he added provisions to help Indigenous peoples with medical supplies in the event of an epidemic, with famine relief and with their new life on reserves. McKay’s life and career exemplified attempts by Métis leaders, both in commerce and politics, to adapt to rapid changes after Confederation.  

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Romeo Saganash

Romeo Saganash, lawyer, politician, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 28 October 1962 in Waswanipi, a Cree community southeast of James Bay in central Quebec). Saganash is Quebec’s first Indigenous Member of Parliament and the province’s first Cree person to receive an undergraduate law degree. He is believed to be the first Indigenous leader in Canada to run for the leadership of a major political party. For the last 20 years, Saganash has represented the Cree at numerous national and international forums concerning Indigenous issues. He spent 23 years helping to negotiate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — a resolution that provides a framework to implement treaty rights between First Peoples and Canada and to fulfill other obligations in international agreements. He has spent his life furthering the economic, environmental, legal and constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly the Cree in the James Bay region.

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Peter Tomkins

Peter Tomkins Jr., Métis leader, political organizer, blacksmith (born 1 January 1899 in Poundmaker Reserve, SK; died June 1970 in High Prairie, AB). In the 1930s, he worked with Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris to build the Métis Association of Alberta (founded 1932, now the Métis Nation of Alberta) and the Indian Association of Alberta (1939). From health care to his work with the Métis settlements, Tomkins promoted improved living conditions for the Métis of Alberta and Saskatchewan. His diplomacy, lobbying and negotiating skills helped get the first Métis-specific legislation passed in Canada in 1938.

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Dekanahwideh

Dekanahwideh, "the Heavenly Messenger," reputed founder of the Five Nations Confederacy. He was said to have been born among the Huron of a virgin mother, and destined to bring peace and power to his people.

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Floyd Roland

Floyd Roland, mechanic, politician, premier of Northwest Territories 2007 to 2011, mayor of Inuvik 2012 to 2015 (born 23 November 1961 in Inuvik, NWT). Roland sat in the Northwest Territories legislature for 12 years before becoming premier on 18 October 2007. His premiership was marred by a scandal over an affair between Roland and a clerk of the legislature.

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Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson (Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla), Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) hereditary chief, politician, administrator (born in 1944 in Comox, British Columbia). A leading theorist in Indigenous politics in British Columbia, Wilson was influential in a successful proposal to amend the Constitution Act, 1982 to enshrine Indigenous rights. He is the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Member of Cabinet in the Justin Trudeau government (2015 to 2019).

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Daniel Paul

Daniel Nicholas Paul, CM, Mi’kmaq elder, author, social justice advocate (born 5 December 1938 on Indian Brook Reserve, NS). Paul is the author of We Were Not the Savages, one of Canada’s first history books from an Indigenous perspective. He had long campaigned for the removal of Halifax’s statue to its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis, until its removal by Halifax's city council in January 2018.

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André Nault

André Nault, Métis leader, farmer, and buffalo hunter (born 20 April 1830 in Point Douglas, Red River Colony [now Winnipeg, MB]; died 17 December 1924 in St Vital, MB). Although a kinsman of Louis Riel and always considered a Métis, Nault was not of mixed blood (his mother and father were French Canadian).

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Bedard Case

R v. Bedard (1971) challenged section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, which concerns the rights of Status Indian women in Canada. The appellant in the case, Yvonne Bedard, took the federal government to court after losing her rights as a Status Indian because of her marriage to a Non-Status man. In 1973, before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Bedard case merged with AG v. Lavell, another case concerning gender discrimination (see Status of Women) in the Indian Act. Although Bedard ultimately lost her reinstatement claims, her case inspired future legal battles regarding women’s rights and the Indian Act, including Lovelace v. Canada (1981) (see Sandra Lovelace Nicholas) and the Descheneaux case (2015).

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Native People's Caravan

The Native People’s Caravan was a cross-country mobile protest that took place in 1974. Its main purpose was to raise awareness about the poor living conditions and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, where the subsequent occupation of a vacant warehouse on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill, extended into 1975. The caravan brought various Indigenous groups together in protest of broken treaties, as well as a lack of government-supported education, housing and health care. As a result, meetings between Cabinet ministers and Indigenous leaders became more frequent. The protest is remembered as an important turning point in Indigenous activism in Canada.

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Maisie Hurley

Maisie Hurley, née Maisie Amy Campbell-Johnston, Vancouver-area political activist, Indigenous ally (see Indigenous Peoples in Canada), newspaper founder and art collector (born 27 November 1887 in Swansea, Wales; died 3 October 1964 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). Although Hurley had no formal legal training or law degree (see Legal Education), she worked on several legal cases and advocated for Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights as well as for changes to the Indian Act. In 1946, Hurley started a newspaper called The Native Voice that aimed to bring attention to important issues concerning Indigenous communities across Canada (see Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada). In 2011, Hurley’s collection of Indigenous art was displayed at the North Vancouver Museum.

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Charlie Watt

Charlie Watt, Inuk leader (born 29 June 1944 in Fort Chimo [now Kuujjuaq], Québec). Watt founded the Northern Québec Inuit Association in 1972 and was a negotiator for the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), signed in 1975. He served in the Canadian Senate from 1984 to 2018. Since January 2018, he has served as president of Makivic Corporation in Nunavik, the Inuit homeland in northern Quebec.