Search for "Indigenous Peoples in Canada"

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Johnson-Butler Purchase

The Johnson-Butler Purchase of 1787–88 (also known as the “Gunshot Treaty,” referring to the distance a person could hear a gunshot from the lake’s edge) is one of the earliest land agreements between representatives of the Crown and the Indigenous peoples of Upper Canada (later Ontario). It resulted in a large tract of territory along the central north shore of Lake Ontario being opened for settlement. These lands became part of the Williams Treaties of 1923. (See also Upper Canada Land Surrenders and Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Charlottetown Accord

The Charlottetown Accord of 1992 was a failed attempt by Prime Minister  Brian Mulroney and all 10 provincial premiers to amend the Canadian Constitution. The goal was to obtain Quebec’s consent to the Constitution Act, 1982. The Accord would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society; decentralized many federal powers to the provinces; addressed the issue of Indigenous self-government; and reformed the Senate and the House of Commons. The Accord had the approval of the federal government and all 10 provincial governments. But it was rejected by Canadian voters in a referendum on 26 October 1992.

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Cowichan Sweater

The Cowichan sweater is a garment created in North America with a distinctly patterned design knitted out of bulky-weighted yarn. It originated during the late 19th century among the Cowichan, a Coast Salish people in British Columbia. Historically also called the Indian sweater or Siwash sweater (a derogatory Chinook word for Indigenous people), the Cowichan people reclaimed the name after the 1950s as a means of emphasizing their claim to the garment. The popularity of the sweater by the mid-1900s thrust Cowichan sweaters into the world of international fashion, where they have been appropriated by non-Indigenous designers. Nevertheless, several knitters from various Coast Salish communities around Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia continue to create and sell authentic sweaters. In 2011, the Canadian government recognized Cowichan knitters and sweaters as nationally and historically significant.

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Totem Pole

The totem pole (also known as a monumental pole) is a tall structure carved out of cedar wood, created by Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples to serve variously as a signboard, genealogical record and memorial. Some well-known carvers include Mungo Martin, Charles Edenshaw, Henry Hunt, Richard Hunt and Stanley Hunt.

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Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nation, Métis and Inuit religions in Canada vary widely and consist of complex social and cultural customs for addressing the sacred and the supernatural. The influence of Christianity — through settlers, missionaries and government policy — significantly altered life for Indigenous peoples. In some communities, this resulted in hybridized religious practices; while in others, European religion replaced traditional spiritual practices entirely. Though historically suppressed by colonial administrators and missionaries, especially from the late 19th- to mid-20th centuries, many contemporary Indigenous communities have revived, or continue to practice, traditional spirituality.

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Sterilization of Indigenous Women in Canada

The practice of sterilization arose out of the eugenics movement and has a long, often hidden history in Canada. Sterilization legislation in Alberta (1928–72) and British Columbia (1933–73) attempted to limit the reproduction of “unfit” persons, and increasingly targeted Indigenous women. Coerced sterilization of Indigenous women took place both within and outside existing legislation, and in federally operated Indian hospitals. The practice has continued into the 21st century. Approximately 100 Indigenous women have alleged that they were pressured to consent to sterilization between the 1970s and 2018, often while in the vulnerable state of pregnancy or childbirth.

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Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Before the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous peoples in Canada had their own building traditions. Dwellings and structures differed vastly from nation to nation, depending on their purpose and function. Building traditions also reflected important aspects of Indigenous peoples’ respective cultures, societies, geographies, environments and spiritual beliefs. This article provides an overview of the main types of dwellings and structures used by Indigenous peoples in the Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and Eastern Woodlands.

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Métis Scrip in Canada

Scrip is any document used in place of legal tender, for example a certificate or voucher, where the bearer is entitled to certain rights. In 1870, the Canadian government devised a system of scrip — referred to as Métis (or “half-breed”) scrip — that issued documents redeemable for land or money. Scrip was given to Métis people living in the West in exchange for their land rights. The scrip process was legally complex and disorganized; this made it difficult for Métis people to acquire land, yet simultaneously created room for fraud. In March 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government failed to provide the Métis with the land grant they were promised in the Manitoba Act of 1870. Negotiations between various levels of government and the Métis Nation concerning the reclamation of land rights continue.

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Wild Nuts in Canada

Nuts are the hard-shelled fruits of flowering trees or shrubs. Within each shell are one or more seed kernels that are easily separated from the outer shell. Most nuts are edible and nutritious, and are sought after by many animals as well as people. There are about 20 edible nut species native to Canada. Most of these species are found in the Great Lakes-St Lawrence and deciduous forest regions of southeastern Canada, including the American hazelnut (Corylus americana), American beechnut (Fagus grandifolia) and black walnut (Juglans nigra). Nuts found in western Canada include the beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), whitebark pine seeds (Pinus albicaulis), and garry oak acorns (Quercus garryana). Virtually all are known to have been used as food by Indigenous Peoples. Some are still harvested and used today, but most have been replaced in peoples’ diets by imported nut species such as European filbert (Corylus avellana), English or Persian walnut (Juglans regia), American pecan (Carya illinoinensis) and cashews (Anacardium occidentale). This article includes descriptions of the most widely-used wild nuts in Canada.

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Powley Case

R. v. Powley was a legal case concerning Métis hunting rights in Canada. In 1993, the province of Ontario charged Steve and Roddy Powley with illegal hunting. The Powleys disputed their conviction, arguing that the Aboriginal rights enshrined in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 protected their hunting rights as Métis people. The case concluded in 2003, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Powleys were, in fact, exercising lawful Métis hunting rights. The Powley case established criteria on who can legally qualify for Métis rights. It outlined 10 specific criteria, known as the Powley Test, which applies to Métis communities across Canada. The case also clarified that the Métis are a distinct people, separate from First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada. Some legal experts believe the Powley case might lead to expanded Métis rights, including harvesting and fishing rights and possibly self-government.

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Fur Trade in Canada

The fur trade was a vast commercial enterprise across the wild, forested expanse of what is now Canada. It was at its peak for nearly 250 years, from the early 17th to the mid-19th centuries. It was sustained primarily by the trapping of beavers to satisfy the European demand for felt hats. The intensely competitive trade opened the continent to exploration and settlement. It financed missionary work, established social, economic and colonial relationships between Europeans and Indigenous people, and played a formative role in the creation and development of Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about the fur trade. For a plain-language summary, please see Fur Trade in Canada (Plain Language Summary).)

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Indian Agents in Canada

Indian agents were the Canadian government’s representatives on First Nations reserves from the 1830s to the 1960s. Often working in isolated locations far from settler communities, Indian agents implemented government policy, enforced and administered the provisions of the Indian Act, and managed the day-to-day affairs of Status Indians. Today, the position of Indian agent no longer exists, as First Nations manage their own affairs through modern band councils or self-government.

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James Bay Project

In 1971, Hydro-Québec and the Québec government initiated the James Bay Project, a monumental hydroelectric-power development on the east coast of James Bay. Over the course of two phases they built a total of eight generating stations, allowing for the pollution-free production of a significant portion of Québec's electricity. However, the projects also profoundly disrupted the environment and the Indigenous communities living in the region, the effects of which are still felt today.

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Treaty 4

Treaty 4 — also known as the Qu'Appelle Treaty — was signed on 15 September 1874 at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. The Indigenous signatories include the Cree, Saulteaux bands of the Ojibwa peoples and the Assiniboine. In exchange for payments, provisions and rights to reserve lands, Treaty 4 ceded Indigenous territory to the federal government. The majority of Treaty 4 lands are in present-day southern Saskatchewan. Small portions are in western Manitoba and southern Alberta.

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Daniels Case

On 14 April 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Daniels v. Canada that the federal government, rather than provincial governments, holds the legal responsibility to legislate on issues related to Métis and Non-Status Indians. In a unanimous decision, the court found that Métis and Non-Status peoples are considered Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 — a section that concerns the federal government’s exclusive legislative powers. Recognition as Indians under this section of law is not the same as Indian Status, which is defined by the Indian Act. Therefore, the Daniels decision does not grant Indian Status to Métis or Non-Status peoples. However, the ruling could result in new discussions, negotiations and possible litigation with the federal government over land claims and access to education, health programs and other government services.

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Suicide among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average, and Inuit communities tend to have even higher rates. Suicide in these cases has multiple social and individual causes. To date, there are a number of emerging programs in suicide prevention by Indigenous organizations that attempt to integrate Indigenous knowledge with evidence-informed prevention approaches.

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