The Prairies around 1905

Indigenous Peoples in the Prairies

Many different First Nations inhabited the Prairies before the arrival of European fur traders. Some of the Nations that call the Prairies home are A’aninin (Gros Ventre), Nakoda (Assiniboine), Nehiyawak (Plains Cree), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Dakota and Lakota (Sioux). Bison was one of the animals found in the Prairies that many of these Nations hunted. Around 1905, the population of bison was greatly declining though, due in part to the settling of the Prairies in Canada and the United States.

Between 1871 and 1921, 11 numbered treaties were signed between the Canadian government and Indigenous Nations living around the Prairies and West Coast.  In simplistic terms, these treaties were agreements that gave the Canadian government rights to use areas of land. In exchange the government promised Indigenous people access to reserve lands, certain hunting and fishing rights, and sometimes annual payments or different goods.  These treaties led to many Indigenous peoples being displaced. In 2020, many of these treaty terms are still the subject of many debates.

Around 1905, Indigenous peoples in the Prairies and across Canada, were also impacted by the residential school system (1831-1996), which involved the forceful removal of children from their families.  Many feel that the goal of treaties and residential schools was, in part, to assimilate Indigenous Peoples into dominant society. In 2024, Indigenous Peoples are fighting to reclaim and revive many traditional practices. 

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