Search for "Indigenous Art"

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Indigenous Peoples and Government Policy in Canada

For most of the history of political interaction between Indigenous people and the Canadian government (and its colonial predecessors) government policy has focused on First Nations. The Inuit were barely acknowledged until the 1940s, while special responsibility for Métis and Non-Status Indians was largely denied until 2016. The early history of Indigenous policy in Canada is characterized by the presence of both France and Britain as colonizing powers. British colonial policy acknowledged Indigenous peoples as sovereign nations. Post-Confederation Canadian Indigenous policy, until the 1960s, was based on a model of assimilation, with one of its main instruments being the Indian Act. Since the late 1960s, government policy has gradually shifted to a goal of self-determination for Indigenous peoples, to be achieved through modern-day treaties and self-government agreements.

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Eva Aariak

Eva Aariak, politician, second premier of Nunavut (born 10 January 1955 in Arctic Bay, Northwest Territories [now Nunavut]). Eva Aariak has the distinction of being Nunavut’s first female premier, and she has been instrumental in the promotion of Inuit languages in the territory. (See also Inuktitut and Indigenous Languages in Canada.)

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Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada

Political activism among Indigenous people in Canada since the late 19th century has largely reflected attempts to organize political associations beyond the band level to pursue common interests. In the wake of persistent criticism of the federal government’s proposed “White Paper” policy (1969), major Indigenous organizations, most notably the Assembly of First Nations, gained political recognition and became established players on the national scene. These organizations were joined in 2012 by the national movement Idle No More.

This article describes Indigenous political organization as it relates to Canadian federal, provincial or territorial political bodies, not the political structures of specific Indigenous communities, which often predate interaction with Europeans and subsequent colonial infrastructure.

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Nunatsiavut

Nunatsiavut (meaning “our beautiful land” in Inuktitut) is the homeland of the Labrador Inuit (Labradormiut). The territory covers 72,520km2 of land and 44,030km2 of sea in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula. On 1 December 2005, the Labrador Inuit celebrated the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government, their own regional government within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Labradormiut became the first Inuit in Canada to achieve self-government. Of the approximately 6,500 beneficiaries, about 2,500 live within the settlement area in five communities: Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale (the legislative capital) and Nain (the administrative capital).

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Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea)

Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea (“two sticks bound together for strength”), Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) war chief, Loyalist, interpreter, statesman (born circa March 1742/43 at Cuyahoga (near Akron, Ohio); died 24 November 1807 at Burlington Bay, ON); brother of Mohawk leader Mary (Molly) Brant. Loyal to Great Britain during and after the American Revolution, he was an influential military captain. Like his sister Mary, he was a powerful diplomat who encouraged Indigenous tribes to share his political loyalties. A Six Nations (See Haudenosaunee) leader, he met significant political figures such as George Washington and King George III on behalf of his people.

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Nebenaigoching

Nebenaigoching (also spelled Nebenaigooching, Unbenegooching, or Nabunagoging), or Joseph Sayers, Anishinaabeg Ogima or leader (born c. 1808 at Leech Island, Lake Superior, Upper Canada [ON]; died 1899 at Garden River First Nation, ON). Son of Ogima Waubejechauk (Wabechechacke) and Julia Sayer, Nebenaigoching was a hereditary Crane Clan chief, defender of Anishinaabeg (see Ojibwe) rights, and signatory to the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty (see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada).

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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.

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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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Mary Brant (Konwatsi'tsiaiénni)

Mary Brant, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk), Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) leader, Loyalist, diplomat, political activist (generally known as Molly Brant and as Konwatsi'tsiaiénni in the Mohawk language, meaning “someone lends her a flower”) (born circa 1736; died 16 April 1796 in Kingston, ON). Brant was one of the most important Indigenous women in Canadian history. From her influential position as head of a society of Six Nations matrons, she enjoyed a much greater status within the Mohawk nation than her more colourful, younger brother, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Consulted by Indigenous people on matters of importance, she was a powerful ally to the British forces and served as their highly effective intermediary with the Iroquois in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

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Donald Marshall Jr

Donald Marshall Jr., Mi'kmaq leader, Indigenous activist, wrongly convicted of murder (born 13 September 1953 in Sydney, NS; died 6 August 2009 in Sydney, NS). Donald Marshall’s imprisonment (1971–82) became one of the most controversial cases in the history of Canada's criminal justice system. He was the first high-profile victim of a wrongful murder conviction to have it overturned, paving the way for others such as David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin. In the 1990s, Marshall was also the central figure in a significant Supreme Court of Canada case on First Nations hunting and fishing rights.

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Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.

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Inuit

Inuit — Inuktitut for “the people” — are an Indigenous people, the majority of whom inhabit the northern regions of Canada. An Inuit person is known as an Inuk. The Inuit homeland is known as Inuit Nunangat, which refers to the land, water and ice contained in the Arctic region.

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Reconciliation in Canada

In Canada, the process of reconciliation is tied to the federal government's relationship with Indigenous peoples. The term has come to describe attempts made by individuals and institutions to raise awareness about colonization and its ongoing effects on Indigenous peoples. Reconciliation also refers to efforts made to address the harms caused by various policies and programs of colonization, such as residential schools. For some, the word represents an opportunity to reflect on the past, to heal and to make right. For others, however, current gestures of reconciliation are merely performative and lack meaningful action to address the harms done by colonization.

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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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Frank Narcisse Jérome

Frank Narcisse Jérome, Mi'kmaq, war hero (born 1886 in Maria, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC; died 1934 in Gesgapegiag, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC). Frank Narcisse Jérome was a First World War veteran from the Gesgapegiag First Nation in the Gaspé peninsula region who was recognized multiple times during the First World War for his bravery. Jérome was one of only 39 Canadian soldiers to win the Military Medal three times during the First World War, and is now recognized as one of the most honoured Indigenous veterans of the war (see Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars and Indigenous Peoples and the First World War). Jérome’s name appears on the war memorial in Gesgapegiag, Quebec.

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Huron Brant

Huron Eldon Brant, Mohawk soldier, war hero, automobile mechanic (born 30 December 1909 in Deseronto, ON; died 14 October 1944 near Bulgaria, Italy). Brant was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for attacking a superior enemy force during the battle for Grammichele in Sicily (seeSecond World War) but was killed later during a battle on the Italian mainland (see The Italian Campaign).

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Louis Riel

Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the Red River and North-West resistances (born 22 October 1844 in Saint-BonifaceRed River Settlement; died 16 November 1885 in ReginaSK). Riel led two popular Métis governments, was central in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and was executed for high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands. Riel was initially dismissed as a rebel by Canadian historians, although many now sympathize with Riel as a Métis leader who fought to protect his people from the Canadian government.

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Murray Sinclair

Murray Sinclair or Mizanay (Mizhana) Gheezhik, meaning “The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky” in the Ojibwe language, lawyer, judge and senator (born in 1951 in Selkirk, MB). Called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980, Sinclair focused primarily on civil and criminal litigation, Indigenous law and human rights. In 1988, he became Manitoba’s first, and Canada’s second, Indigenous judge. Sinclair joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009, before becoming a senator in 2016. He retired from the Senate in 2021 but continues to mentor Indigenous lawyers. The breadth of public service and community work completed by Sinclair demonstrates his commitment to Indigenous peoples in Canada.