“Indian” status

Since 1820, a series of laws had been adopted to define the role of Indigenous people in Canadian society. In the 1850s, the government passed a law to reserve 230 000 acres of Indigenous lands. The government defined who was considered an “Indian” and took way Indigenous peoples rights to own property or vote. However, Indigenous people could become “full citizens” by renouncing their Indian status.  Any Indigenous women who married a non-Indigenous man also lost her  status and rights to live on reserve land, gather and hunt, and more. These laws had large impacts on Indigenous communities and separated families. 

Economic hardship

Colonization and growing industries like hydroelectricity and pulp and paper had taken up more and more of the land. It was harder for Indigenous people to sustain themselves using traditional means like hunting and gathering. Nations that were traditionally nomadic were often forced to live on government reservations. Many communities continued to make handicrafts, which they sold in towns and in the United States.

Residential schools

The first residential school opened in Canada in 1831. Around 1905, Indigenous children from across Canada were still forced to attend residential or day schools which were run by by churches. The last residential school only closed its doors in 1996. The goal of these schools was to eliminate Indigenous cultures and assimilate Indigenous Peoples into dominant Canadian society. Since 2021, Sept. 30 has been known as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation to honour the children, families, and communities that were impacted by residential schools in Canada.

The creation of national parks and wildlife reserves

Towards the end of the 19th century, the federal and provincial governments decided create parks and wildlife reserves to  preserve land and promote tourism. These parks were accessible to wealthy American and Canadian tourists and were often on territories the Indigenous Peoples had lived on for millennia. In 1895, for example, the Parc des Laurentides (now known as Réserve faunique des Laurentides or Laurentides Wildlife Reserve) was created north of Quebec City. This led to some members of the region’s Innu and (Huron)Wendat communities being denied access to their traditional territory.  It was only after long legal and political struggles that members of these Nations were once again allowed to access these areas.

Author: Alexandre Lanoix

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