At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Aboriginal People inhabiting the modern territory of Canada encountered significant cultural and traditional losses, as well as disruption of their ethnic and national identity. This historical disaster had emerged after the contact of the first European arrivals who had attempted to conquer the land and impose restrictions on the rights of the Aboriginal People.
In the process, several acts and treaties were signed to ensure that the indigenous population lived in peace and harmony. However, these Acts and Treaties led to the Natives losing their lands. The British invaded their land, segregated their families, and abused their rights.
The aim of this study is to show the Aboriginal people’s loss of connection to their land and identity. This paper focuses on the fur trade, Indian Act, Treaties, and educational sphere to define how it contributed to the loss in connection to land. An in-depth analysis of facts and report has revealed that the indigenous population of Canada experienced the loss of culture and traditions, disruption of family structures, and marginalization.
The French and the English colonists arrived at the North America because they were involved in fur trading with the First National People. To establish favourable relations with indigenous people, European traders provided them with tools and weapons for hunting. The established unions were also represented as mixed marriages of Europeans with Native Americans which resulted in merger of cultures, as well as loss of the First Nation ethnicity.
The children of such unions had a mixed biological ancestry because they possessed elements of their parents’ cultural heritage. It has been found that, “many mixed-ancestry children grew up and raised their own families in communities that were both biologically and culturally mixed European-Indian” (Lawrence, 2003, p. 14). Involvement into economic relation with European nations contributed greatly to the loss of the land connection for the Aboriginal people.
As it has been mentioned previously, the history of fur trade is of particular significance to process of shaping Metis ethnicity. Two largest fur trade actors – the North West Company from Montreal and the Hudson’s Bay Company – the two competing interests striving to interact with the First Nation people (Lawrence, 2003).
The history reveals, “…the proliferation of posts inland brought more people into direct contact with the European trading system and European life styles” (Francis & Morantz, 1983, p. 170). Because seasonable employment was a temporary phenomenon, the Indian people were largely dependent on the fur trade relations.
Specifically, the change related to mixed blood marriages and disruption of the Indian families. What is more threatening, the European life-styles replaced the traditional life-styles of the Aboriginal people. Thus, a new class of Indians appeared as a result of close involvement in fur trade. The class was composed of coasters whereas inlanders were less affected.
The Aboriginal people lost land and their culture and traditions had begun to fade. Some of the communities started adopting the British cultures. For example, Aboriginal men started using guns to hunt while the women started to rely on European cooking vessels such as iron kettles.
The loss of traditional values combined with the harassment from the British led to adoption of new socially repulsive characters. Alcoholism became a norm among the Aboriginal men. The aboriginal people lost not only their cultural values they had attached to their lands but also their life supporting skills. Greed and aspiration to social welfare and independence provided reasons for increasing personal material wealth, which gradually led to the loss of connection to land and life supporting skills.
The advent of the European colonisers has had a significant impact on the history of Aboriginal people in Canada. It has been deeply changed by the relationships and the agreements concluded between the first nation and the Europeans, which has influenced on land redistribution, as well as marginalization of the Aboriginals.
Particular attention should be paid to the Numbered treaties signed within the period from 1871 to 1922, along with the Indian act. Hence, the first five numbered treaties were issues between 1971 and 1875 put the Aboriginal nations under the threat of loss of cultural identity because of the invasion of European settlements (Aboriginal Canada Portal, n. d.).
In return to the land that Aboriginal people surrender to secure themselves from total extinction. They were left with small territories where they could farm. The government promised to provide the Aboriginal society with new clothes and farm supplies. In such a manner, the European hoped to transform the indigenous population from hunters and gatherers to independent farmers, similar to the European inhabitants (Aboriginal Canada Portal, n. d.).
As a result, the Aboriginal societies were gradually exiled from their native lands. Living on the identified land areas, the First Nation society had to adjust to new social and cultural backgrounds. Significant controversy and misconceptions were specifically revealed in the first two treaties which did not involve verbal promises of the government about provision the inhabitants with more farm supplies and money.
Though Aboriginal people agreed on maintaining people and order on the assigned tracts of land, alcoholism and loss of traditions were still among the most serious outcomes of those treaties.
According to the Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (2006), “…continual reorganizations in government have resulted in trivialization of the treaties because of deliberate policies inimical to the treaties and sheer ignorance and neglect of the treaties as the source of rights and obligations” (n. p.). Because of this reason, significant cross-cultural misconception emerged between the Aboriginal Society and the government.
Health problems, particularly the problems of alcoholism also occurred as the result of the conditions under which the migrated population of Aboriginals lived. The point is that “aboriginal communities are hit harder by substance abuse than non aboriginal communities” (McGregor, 2001, n. p.).
The European people were aware of the fact and take advantage of it to suppress the resistance masses of indigenous population. In addition, these consequences are largely explained by false stereotypes that were imposed on the native inhabitants in the course of the Aboriginal history.
Further treaties signed between the Crown Canada and the Aboriginal People follow the policy of Aboriginal’s assimilation. For instance, “the government banned potlatch celebrations in 1884 and started placing Aboriginal children into Western Canadian residential schools during the late 1800s” (Aboriginal Canada Portal, n. d., p. 1).
These schools were established by the federal government for Aboriginal children of age between 5 and 16. Hence, children were taken from community and placed in a host environment detached from their traditional settings (Stout & Kipling, 2003).
In fact, the government did not seek to provide children with sufficient education, but educate future members of the European society. As a result, “residential schools not only destroyed many Aboriginal children’s self-esteem, they helped damaged their culture, language and tradition” (Aboriginal Canada Portal, n. d.). Moreover, health problems and physical abuse were among other serious consequences for children’s placed into a social environment.
The Indian Act
The Indian Act adopted in 1876 creates a number of contradictions in terms of the affiliation of Aboriginal people to their native status. According to this document, the residency and status of the Indian were regulated by the Canadian government, which prevented certain ethnic groups from getting different social and ethnical rights.
Hence, it was the primary right of the government to decide whether certain group of Aboriginal people should acquire the status of Indians. Using registration as a means to define who could live on the native lands created significant challenges for native inhabitants from culturally mixed families.
Moreover, “Indian status has come to determine eligibility for certain program such as extended health benefits, possible financial assistance with post secondary education and exemption from certain taxes” (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 2011, n. p.). However, because some of the provisions of the act contained a lot of biases and restrictions, it prevented people from receiving these privileges.
In addition to the above-mentioned challenges, the document produced gender biases as well. Before 1985, the registration was more beneficial to me because “an Indian woman who married a non-Indian ceased to be registered as an Indian and her children could not be registered and her children could not be registered” (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 2011, n. p).
When it comes to males, their marriage to non-Indian women does not influence their registration. As a result, the discriminative policy against women, as well as the practice of mixed marriages contributed to the loss of the connection of the Aboriginal people to their native lands.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that the advent of European people into the lands of the Aboriginals has had a potent impact on their traditional lifestyles.
Specifically, Fur Trade period, signing of the Numbered Treaties, the Indian Act, and establishment of residential schools have had a devastating outcome for the First Nation resulting in alcoholism, family disruption, loss of the connection to the land, and marginalization. These consequences are now carefully reconsidered to introduce changes that would secure and respect the rights of Aboriginal societies.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (2011). Existing Indian Act Provisions. Retrieved from http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1308163673779
Aboriginal Canada Portal (n. d.). 1871-1875: First Five Numbered Treaties. Retrieved from http://www.canadiana.ca/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals7_e.html
Francis, D., & Morantz, T. E. (1983). Partners in Furs: A History of the Fur Trade in Eastern James Bay, 1600-1870. US: McGill-Queen’s Press.
Indian Act. (1985). Indian Act. Retrieved from
Lawrence, A. (2003). A Program of Research Related to Historical Metis Communities. Just Research, 15, 12-18. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/jr/jr15/jr15.pdf
McGregor, G. (2001). Debate Rages over Native Alcoholism. Retrieved from http://firstnationsdrum.com/2001/12/debate-rages-over-native-alcoholism/
Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (2006). Restructuring the Relationship. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071124125834/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/shm2_e.html
Stout, M. and Kipling, G. (2003). Aboriginal People, Resilience, and the Residential School Legacy. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Retrieved from