Timeline

Topic Progress:

Introduction

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1400s-1600s

Colonizers Arrive / Doctrine of Discovery

The Vatican gave colonizers permission, which was not theirs to give, to claim land populated by non-Christians and overthrow and convert Indigenous people. Lands that had been inhabited by Indigenous people for thousands of years were considered empty as Indigenous people “occupied, rather than owned, the land”. (Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Colonizers dehumanized Indigenous people, referring to them as heathens and savages.

Reflection:  Thinking of a person or a group of people as less than human leads to treating them inhumanely. How does the dehumanization of Indigenous people in this country contribute to violence against them, including sexual violence?  Add your thoughts to your notes using the button.

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1700s

Focused Efforts to Exterminate Indigenous People

Colonization was - and is - a violent act. According to Mi’kmaw historian Daniel Paul, locally it included “bounties for human scalps, including women and children, out and out massacres, starvation and germ warfare.” Throughout the 1700’s and 1800’s there were focused policy efforts to exterminate Indigenous people using these methods.

Peace and Friendship Treaties

Throughout the 1700’s several Peace and Friendship treaties were negotiated between the Mi’kmaq (and the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy) and the British crown. These treaties are referred to as the Covenant Chain of Treaties.

“They were treaties entered into with the intent to establish “peace and friendship”—diplomatic measures desired by the British to secure Mi’kmaw neutrality in the wars with France. The treaties promised peaceful interaction in return for explicitly protecting Mi’kmaw hunting, fishing, and trapping practices. Land was never ceded in Mi’kmaw treaties.”

- Mi’kmawe’l Tan Teli-kina’muemk Teaching About the Mi’kmaq

Unfortunately, successive colonial governments did not honour, and continue to ignore, their treaty obligations and the treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq.

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Late 1800s - Early 1900s

British North America Act (BNA)

The BNA (1867) gave the newly established federal government exclusive control over Indigenous people and lands reserved for them.

Reflection:  Severing the relationship between Indigenous people and the land led to the loss of their traditional way of life, economies, and food sources, resulting in high rates of poverty. How does living in poverty make people more vulnerable to sexual violence?  Add your thoughts to your notes using the button.

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Indian Act

The Indian Act (1876) attempted to release the government of its legal and financial obligations to Indigenous people and gain control over their traditional territories and resources. The Act defined who is and who isn’t ‘Indian’, excluding many individuals that Indigenous communities considered members.

Gender Discrimination in the Indian Act

Under the Act a woman lost her status if she married a non-status man. This meant she would lose “treaty benefits, health benefits, the right to live on her reserve, the right to inherit her family property, and even the right to be buried on the reserve with her ancestors” (Indigenous Foundations, University of British Columbia). It often forced Indigenous women to relocate to urban centres where they lived in poverty, in substandard housing, without access to long-standing supports or the ability to connect to the land, traditions, and ceremonies.

It also negatively impacted many Indigenous women’s sense of identity and belonging. Women were also not allowed to vote or run in band council elections.

These were clear attempts to disempower Indigenous women, and further sever their relationship with the land.

Reflection:  How could an Indigenous woman losing her status make her vulnerable to sexual violence?  Add your thoughts to your notes using the button.

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Residential Schools

The residential school system is a prime example of cultural genocide. Over 150 years more than 150, 000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities and sent to residential schools. Students were prohibited from speaking their language and practicing traditions. Their long hair was cut, personal possessions taken, and names replaced by a Christian name or number. Boys and girls were not permitted to associate, separating siblings, family, and friends.

If a student was caught breaking a rule they were punished with violence. Thousands of students were psychologically, physically, and sexually abused by school officials.

- Courtesy of Historica Canada

Continued Cultural Genocide 

Later versions of the Indian Act allowed the government to force parents to send their children to residential schools, outlawed cultural and spiritual practices, overrode decisions made by bands, and got rid of Chiefs and council members.

Resistance to Residential Schools 

Indigenous people resisted residential schools in a variety of ways including refusing to enroll students or to return children who ran away, and not sending them back after the summer break. Parents also pressured the government to increase funding and improve conditions. Others were not aware of the terrible conditions and abuse that occurred at the schools.

Reflection:  These schools separated Indigenous people from their languages and ability to communicate with their families; oral histories; culture, values and traditions; connections to their community; and familial bonds.  Indigenous women were not able to fulfill their roles as nurturers, caregivers and teachers, significantly impacting their role in the family and community. How do these changes in the roles of family and community contribute to sexual violence?  Add your thoughts to your notes using the button.

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1940s-1960s

Centralization

In the mid 1900’s the federal government began the process of moving all Mi’kmaw people to Eskasoni and Sipekne’katik. Efforts to confine Mi’kmaw people to specific geographic locals began in the late 1700’s and the Mi’kmaw community at Kings Road was moved to Membertou in the early 1900’s.

Centralization was an attempt to: isolate the Mi’kmaq, further sever their relationship with the land, move them away from white communities and economic centres, and cut government costs.

The government promised Mi’kmaw people better housing, health care, education, and employment as incentive. They arrived in their new communities to find half-built homes, overcrowding, and only short-term employment. Many were no longer able to hunt or fish, and much of the land was not adequate for farming.

People who wanted to return to their home communities were threatened with loss of status and Indian Agents destroyed many Mi’kmaw homes after they were relocated. (History of Eskasoni, Eskasoni.ca)

Some families refused to move and remain in those communities to this day.

Sixties Scoop

Over 20,000 Indigenous children were removed from their families and communities by child protective services starting in the 1960s. Children were often placed in non-Indigenous foster homes or adopted by non-Indigenous families. This was yet another attempt to “take the Indian out of the child”.

Many children were bounced from one foster home to another and some suffered emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. Some grew up not knowing they were Indigenous. Even children with well-meaning, loving foster or adoptive families, grew up disconnected from their culture, community, heritage, traditions, spirituality, and language.

An extension of the residential schools, it interrupted family bonds and denied another generation of Indigenous youth role models and crucial parenting and life skills.

In February of 2017 an Ontario Superior Court judge found that the federal government failed to prevent children who were taken during the Sixties Scoop from losing their Indigenous identity. The ruling is a result of a Class Action lawsuit launched eight years previous.

Reflection:  Indigenous communities have historically relied on kinship networks and customary adoptions when parents were unable to raise their children. Taking children from their families and communities undermined the traditional role of family and kinship networks and was traumatizing for many. How did this make women more vulnerable to sexual violence?  Add your thoughts to your notes using the button.

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White Paper and Indigenous Opposition

The Trudeau Liberal government’s White Paper on Indian Policy (1969) sought to eliminate reserves, the Indian Act, and any recognition of individual 'Indian status' or collective Indigenous rights. The paper garnered “forceful opposition from Aboriginal leaders across the country and sparked a new era of Indigenous political organizing in Canada.” (UBC Indigenous Foundations) A counter document published by the Indian Association of Alberta, known at the “Red Paper”, was adopted as the national Indigenous response to the White Paper.

Emergence of Indigenous Rights Organizations 

Major Indigenous organizations, most notably the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), gained political recognition and momentum in the wake of the proposed White Paper.

Shubenacadie Residential School Closes

Shubenacadie Residential School, the only residential school in the Maritime provinces, operated from 1927 to 1967. Shubenacadie Indian Residential School survivor Isabelle Knockwood interviewed 42 fellow survivors for her book Out of the Depths.

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1970s-1980s

Indigenous Women Push for Changes to Indian Act

In the mid 1900’s several high profile protests and court cases challenged the section of the Indian Act under which a woman lost her status if she married a non-status man (section 12-1-b).

Mary Two-Axe Earley, of the Mohawk Nation, started speaking out against section 12-1-b as early as the 1950s. Two-Axe Earley, who lost her status when she married a non-status man, created the Equal Rights for Native Women association in 1968, the same year she made a submission to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

In the early 1970’s Jeannette Corbiere Lavell of the Wikwemikong Nation and Yvonne Bédard of the Iroquois Nation argued before the Supreme Court that their rights under the Canadian Bill of Rights had been violated when they lost their status. Though the Supreme Court did not rule in their favour their cases were crucial in the fight against gender discrimination in the Act.

In the late 1970’s Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, a Maliseet woman from New Brunswick's Tobique Nation, took a similar appeal to the United Nations human rights committee, which she won in 1981. Lovelace Nicholas’ case built on several years of activism by the Tobique Women’s Group, including a 110-mile walk and protest on Parliament Hill in 1979. The book Enough is Enough: Aboriginal Women Speak Out tells the story of the Tobique Women’s Group in their own words.

Amendments to the Indian Act

Bill C-31 (1985) amended the Indian Act so that women who married men without status would not lose theirs. Unfortunately, there were limited concessions to address discrimination in the Indian Act. First Nations Bands were not given additional government funding, and women and children whose status was reinstated didn’t have access to housing and essential services. Two-Axe Earley was the first woman to have her status restored.

Indigenous Women’s Advocacy Organizations

Both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSWA) were founded in the early 1970’s. Corbiere Lavell went on to serve as the President of NWAC.

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1990s-Present

Last State Run Residential School Closes (1996)

Strategic Activism 

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) issued its final report (1996). The report’s 440 recommendations called for sweeping changes to the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and governments. Indigenous communities and organizations pressed for action on the recommendations.

The Current Child Welfare/Protection System

There continues to be a disproportionate number of Indigenous children in care and many are still in non-Indigenous homes. There are currently more Indigenous children in care than at the peak of the residential school era. In 2016 the federal Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children by providing less funding, and services, to child welfare/protection services on reserves. The ruling was the result of a 2007 complaint filed by the First Nations and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) began in 2007. It is part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which grew out of a class action lawsuit against the Canadian government. Nora Bernard, a Mi’kmaq woman and former Shubenacadie Residential School student, launched the first class action lawsuit against the government for compensation for residential school survivors.

The TRC has two goals: 1) Document the experiences of survivors, families, and communities affected by Indian Residential Schools. 2) Teach all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools.

Idle No More 

In 2012 Idle No More’s founders led a series of teach-ins that grew into a nationwide, mass protest movement focused on Indigenous rights and respect for treaties. It quickly became one of the largest Indigenous mass movements in Canadian history – sparking hundreds of events and protests. Locally and nation-wide this movement was largely led by Indigenous women.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls(MMIWG)

Thousands of Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in this country in recent decades. Police have recorded eighteen hundred missing or murdered women. Estimates by families, Indigenous groups, and the federal government are much higher.  Racism, poverty, and sexism leave Indigenous women vulnerable to violence, and have led to slow and inadequate police investigations when an Indigenous woman goes missing.

See Learn More for more information on the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Sisters in Spirit and the National Inquiry into MMIWG

Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and groups have worked relentlessly to tell the stories of their loved ones and draw attention to this crisis.

In 2016, responding to the mounting pressure, the federal government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Indigenous women continue to be dehumanized and hypersexualized, reducing an entire population of diverse and multifaceted women to sex objects. Indigenous women, girls, and Two Spirit people deserve to be respected, valued, loved and celebrated.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

The UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 but not endorsed by Canada until 2016.

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