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Louis Levi Oakes

Louis Levi Oakes (also known as Tahagietagwa), Mohawk soldier, war hero, steelworker, public works supervisor (born 23 January 1925 in St. Regis, QC; died 28 May 2019 in Snye, QC). During the Second World War, Oakes was a code talker for the United States Army. Code talkers used their Indigenous languages to encode radio messages to prevent the enemy from understanding them. When he passed away at age 94, Oakes was the last Mohawk code talker. (See also Cree Code Talkers and Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)

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Haisla (Kitamaat)

The Haisla are a First Nation in Canada. The Haisla Nation is made up of two historic bands, the Kitamaat of upper Douglas Channel and Devastation Channel and the Kitlope of upper Princess Royal Channel and Gardner Canal in British Columbia. The Kitamaat call themselves Haisla ("dwellers downriver"); and the Kitlope, Henaaksiala ("dying off slowly"), a reference to their traditional longevity. The official designations Kitamaat ("people of the snow") and Kitlope ("people of the rocks") were adopted from the names used by the Tsimshian to refer to their Haisla neighbours.

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Abenaki

Abenaki (also referred to as Wobanaki or Wabanaki) take their name from a word in their own language meaning “dawn-land people” or “people from the east.” Their traditional lands included parts of southeastern Quebec, western Maine and northern New England. As of 2021, the total registered population of Abenaki people on the Wôlinak and Odanak reserves in Quebec is 469 and 2,747, respectively.

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Piikani

Piikani (Peigan, Pikuni, Piikuni) are one of the three nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy. (The other two are the Siksika and Kainai.) The Piikani once occupied a vast hunting ground which ranged along the foothills from Rocky Mountain House to Heart Butte, Montana, and extended eastward onto the Plains. According to the federal government, there are 3,884 registered members living and working both on and off their reserves located near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

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Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) novelist, journalist, mentor (born 4 October 1955 in northwestern ON; died 10 March 2017 in Kamloops, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer in Canada, Wagamese won several awards including the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize (2013) and the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Matt Cohen Award (2015). His works speak about the historical and contemporary socio-economic issues affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. They also bring attention to issues regarding Indigenous identity, culture and truth and reconciliation. A beloved writer, Wagamese’s works have inspired many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and writers alike.

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Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada

Political activism among Indigenous people in Canada since the late 19th century has largely reflected attempts to organize political associations beyond the band level to pursue common interests. In the wake of persistent criticism of the federal government’s proposed “White Paper” policy (1969), major Indigenous organizations, most notably the Assembly of First Nations, gained political recognition and became established players on the national scene. These organizations were joined in 2012 by the national movement Idle No More.

This article describes Indigenous political organization as it relates to Canadian federal, provincial or territorial political bodies, not the political structures of specific Indigenous communities, which often predate interaction with Europeans and subsequent colonial infrastructure.

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First Nations in Canada

First Nation is one of three groupings of Indigenous people in Canada, the other two being Métis and Inuit. Unlike Métis and Inuit, most First Nations hold reserve lands, and members of a First Nation may live both on and off these reserves. While the term First Nation can describe a large ethnic grouping (e.g. the Cree Nation), in other cases it is synonymous with the term band, a word originally chosen by the federal government and used in the Indian Act. The word band describes smaller communities. Many First Nations prefer the term First Nation over band.

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Racial Segregation of Asian Canadians

The beginning of Chinese immigration to present-day British Columbia in the 1850s sparked a vociferous and sustained opposition from Euro-Canadian residents. This opposition intensified with the arrival of Japanese immigrants in the 1870s and South Asians in the early 1900s. To counter the supposed racial and economic dangers presented by these groups, labour leaders and others in the province successfully lobbied for legal and social restrictions on Asian employment, housing, education and civic participation in the province. These formed the basis for Asian segregation in British Columbia and Canada generally, which continued until the end of Japanese internment and the removal of all Asian voting restrictions in 1949. While it never attained the level of racial separation seen during the US South’s Jim Crow era, Asian segregation from whites in 19th and early 20th century Canada defined many aspects of everyday life in Canada.

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Cultural Duality

Contemporary observers who may not be thoroughly familiar with the history behind Canadian cultural dualism often have trouble in decoding it. Although the idea of cultural duality appears in laws, in policies on education, religion and language, and in the formulation of the fundamental rights of the provinces, its historical foundations remain hard to define.

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Olive Dickason

Olive Patricia Dickason (née Williamson), CM, Métis journalist, historian, university professor, author (born 6 March 1920 in Winnipeg, MB; died 12 March 2011 in Ottawa, ON). Dickason was the first scholar in Canada to receive a PhD in Indigenous history. Her ground-breaking research and books about Indigenous and Métis history and culture transformed how Canadians perceive the origin of their country and Indigenous peoples. Dickason’s work inspired a new generation of scholars, helping to launch Indigenous studies as an area of scholarly research. She received an Order of Canada in recognition of her achievements.

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Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich'in)

Dinjii Zhuh (also Gwich’in, formerly Kutchin), meaning “one who dwells (in)” or “the inhabitant of,” are Dene (Athabaskan)-speaking Indigenous peoples who live in northwestern North America. These communities are often referred to collectively as Dinjii Zhuh, although some First Nations and the Gwich’in Tribal Council retain the Gwich’in name. There are thought to be between 7,000 and 9,000 Dinjii Zhuh living in communities in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

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Jully Black

Jully Ann Inderia Gordon, singer, songwriter, actor, TV personality (born 8 November 1977 in Toronto, ON). Jully Black is known as “Canada’s Queen of R&B.” In 2013, CBC Music named her one of the 25 Greatest Canadian Singers Ever. Her rich and soulful alto voice has drawn comparisons to Tina Turner and Amy Winehouse. She has won a Juno Award from 10 nominations and has written songs for Destiny’s Child, Nas, Sean Paul and Missy Elliott, among others. She also started her own recording, management and publishing company, and her own fitness enterprise. Black has appeared onstage in productions of trey anthony’s play Da Kink in My Hair and Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline, or Change; the latter earned Black a 2020 Dora Award. She is also a popular television and radio host and panel guest. She was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.

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George Manuel

George Manuel, OC, LLD (born 17 or 21 February 1921 in the traditional Shuswap territory in British Columbia; died on 15 November 1989 in Kamloops, British Columbia) was an Indigenous activist of the Shuswap Nation engaged in Indigenous politics on the local, national and international scales (seeIndigenous Peoples in Canada). He was the president of the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada (today’s Assembly of First Nations) from 1970 to 1976 and founded the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1975.

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Nisga'a

The Nisga’a are the original occupants of the Nass River Valley of Northwestern British Columbia. As of 2011, 1,909 Nisga’a continue to live on traditional lands in this area. Granted self-government in a landmark case in 2000, the Nisga’a Lisims Government now governs the Nisga’a nation.

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Mowachaht-Muchalaht

The Mowachaht and Muchalaht are Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations which formally amalgamated in the 1950s. Together, their territory includes parts of the west coast of Vancouver Island. As of September 2018, the federal government reports the registered population to be 613. Along with other Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council nations, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht are currently in stage four of a six-stage treaty process in British Columbia to attain self-government.

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Catherine Sutton (Nahneebahwequa)

Catherine Sutton (née Sonego or Sunegoo) (sometimes spelled Catharine, also known as Nahnee, Nahneebahwequa and Upright Woman), Anishinaabe (Mississauga) writer, Methodist missionary and political advocate (born 1824 in the Credit River flats, Upper Canada; died 26 September 1865 in Sarawak Township, Grey County, Canada West). Catherine Sutton was as an advocate for her people during a time when the cultural, political and economic rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada were formally eroded by assimilationist policies.

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Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

The Haudenosaunee, or “people of the longhouse,” commonly referred to as Iroquois or Six Nations, are members of a confederacy of Aboriginal nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Originally a confederacy of five nations inhabiting the northern part of New York state, the Haudenosaunee consisted of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk. When the Tuscarora joined the confederacy early in the 18th century, it became known as the Six Nations. Today, Haudenosaunee live on well-populated reserves — known as reservations in the United States — as well as in off-reserve communities.

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North-West Schools Question

The North-West Schools Question was a conflict between church and state for control of education in the North-West Territories (now Saskatchewan and Alberta) in the late-19th century. The controversy was similar to other educational crises across Canada, and reflected the larger national debate about the future of Canada as a bilingual and bicultural country.

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Freda Ahenakew

​Freda Ahenakew, OC, Cree scholar, author (born 11 February 1932 on Ahtahkakoop First Nation, SK; died 8 April 2011 at Muskeg Lake First Nation, SK). Ahenakew is recognized as a leader in the acknowledgment and revitalization of the Cree language in Canada. In her life, Ahenakew helped to preserve the oral traditions of the Cree people and share Cree traditions and stories with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. (See also Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada.)