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A Timeline of Indigenous History in Canadian Law

  • The Creation of the Indian Department

    The Creation of the Indian Department
    During the 7 Years War, in Canada, the French and Indigenous groups had preexisting relationships through trade. Since Indigenous people would be a valuable asset in fighting and having the tactical upperhand, the British decided that they needed Indigenous relations for the army. The Indian Department, originally a part of the military sector, was made to manage relationships between Indigenous and British people. (used notes)
  • The Royal Proclamation

    The Royal Proclamation
    The first Canadian legal document to lay down the treaty making process and set aside "reserve land" for Indigenous peoples (Sometimes referred to as the Indigenous Magna Carter). It also dictates how the Crown should associate with Indigenous peoples at the time.
    (used notes)
  • The Treaty of Niagara

    The Treaty of Niagara
    The Treaty of Niagara is a Wampum recorded treaty that allowed the British occupation/ presence of much area around the Great Lakes. It was one of the first land cessions that followed the protocols of the Royal Proclamation. While it is not recognized today, it is seen as a foundational document for subsequent treaties.
  • The Bagot Commission

    The Bagot Commission
    Named after Charles Bagot (Governor General of BNA), The Bagot Commision examined the state/affairs of The Indian Department and decreed that there was a need to assimilate Indigenous peoples in Canada, and make them "civilized".
  • Gradual Civilization Act

    Gradual Civilization Act
    This act was essentially made as part of the effort to assimilate Indigenous peoples into European settler society. The Gradual Civilization Act mostly promoted enfranchment. It was ended in 1876, becoming a part of The Indian Act.
  • Gradual Enfranchisement Act

    Gradual Enfranchisement Act
    The Gradual Enfranchisment Act sought to assimilate Indigenous men, and make them become "a white man". It also established the elected band system. If an Indigenous man was deemed of "good moral character" and had become "civilized", they were able to gain citizenship- but it forced them to give up traditional ways/rights. If they chose to not become a citizen or were not applicable for this Indigenous people were considered a "ward of the state" (notes) (image is Indigenous art "Marrying Out")
  • The Indian Act

    The Indian Act
    The Indian Act is Canadian law that governs all matters regarding Indian Status, bands, and reserve land. The Indian Act is still active today, and while it has been amended from the original, is still mainly retains its original state. Historically, it has been considered very invasive, as it directly governs the affairs of Indigenous people. Many other laws created to govern Indigenous peoples were combined into the Indian Act.
  • Residential Schooling

    Residential Schooling
    While the federal residential school system began in 1883, the earliest residential schools stem back to the 1830s. Residential schools were enforced by the Canadian gov. to assimilate Indigenous children into Eurocentric lifestyles and Christianity. Children were ripped from their families and banned from acknowledging their culture/language. Much abuse occurred, and over 4000 people died. The effects of these schools are very fresh, with the last school closing as recent as 1996. (notes)
  • Amendments to The Indian Act

    Amendments to The Indian Act
    In 1951, a revised Indian Act was released, removing some of the worst restrictions on politics, culture, and spirituality. For example, bans on spiritual dances, bans that prohibited Indigenous peoples from having legal counsel, and bans that prohibited Indigenous people from forming political organizations were removed. (Notes,,and%20sun%20dance%20were%20removed. )
  • 60s Scoop

    60s Scoop
    The 60s Scoop refers to the years 1961- 1980s, where mass amounts of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and into 'state care'. Most often, they were removed from their families and placed into middle class European households, at about 70% of all placed into non-Indigenous homes. Most were denied their heritage and abuse was not uncommon. The 60s scoop led to suppressed identity and psychological/emotional issues
  • The White Paper

    The White Paper
    Pierre Elliot Trudeau proposed The White Paper- an end to the Indian Act & the legal relationship between Canada & Indigenous people. It would eliminate Indian status, dissolve The Department of Indian Affairs, a commissioner would look at land claims and get rid of treaties. This was met with forceful opposition: while disguised as something good- The White Paper woud remove the identity of Indigenous peoples established in law.
  • The Constitution Act

    The Constitution Act
    A landmark document in Canadian history, the Constitution Act achieved full independence for Canada. The Constitution Act recognizes and affirms Indigenous and treaty rights. These rights include cultural, political, social and economic rights, such as the right to practice culture, and to fish and hunt on their land. This acknowledgement was only given after demonstrations by Indigenous groups demanding recognition.