Indigenous Agency Timeline Handout - Postsecondary

Detailed Indigenous History/Agency Timeline Handout -

Postsecondary Level 

10th -15th Centuries (ACE):

 Inuit peoples may be the first Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island to encounter Europeans.

Beginning in the 9th century, Norse colonizers establish a pattern of occupying northern islands; from the western Scottish islands, they push on to Iceland, Greenland, and eventually Turtle Island. The Eirikssons probably travel along the coast of Labrador in the early 11th century; Norse colonists in Greenland may have visited Ellesmere Island in the 13th century.

Archaeologists have found evidence of trade between the Inuit and the Norse peoples; there is also evidence of hostilities, as Norse legends of the encounters refer to hostilities with skraelings (‘savages') (red 33).

October 11, 1492: "The last day of freedom for the original ‘discoverers' and occupants of this land" (red 9)-freedom from European imperialism. 

1534: Jacques Cartier travels along the coast of "Nitassinan," the traditional territory of the Innu people, located in  what is now also known as northern Quebec and Labrador. The Innu (related to the Cree and Ojibwe), while becoming heavily involved with the Jesuits and developing a strong economy through the fur trade, will remain "among the most traditional of Canada's First Nations" into the twentieth century (red 133).

1537: "Papal Bull: Sublimus Deus. As a decree issued by Pope Paul III, this papal bull states: "We define and declare by these our letters [that] the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they in any way be enslaved" (VSW 6).

1550: King Charles V of Spain orders all conquests in the "New World" halted until the legality of waging war on the Indigenous inhabitants is confirmed. He calls upon Juan Gines de Sepulveda and Bartolome de las Casas to debate the question: is it lawful  for the King of Spain to wage war on the Indians before preaching the faith to them, in order to subject them to his rule so that afterwards they may be more easily instructed in the faith?" Las Casas, a Dominican monk who spent 50 years in Central America, argued that conquest was neither legal nor moral, and that the Spanish were the true barbarians. While the debate was never formally resolved, and the suspension on conquest was lifted, Las Casas continues to be recognized in South and Central America, through monuments and other forms of commemoration. (red 15-18).

1536 and 1570s: The central importance of Indigenous translators and negotiators in the European imperialist economy is acknowledged through the kidnapping and attempted education in European languages of Haudenosaunee and Inuit people. On his first voyage, Cartier and his crew take Domagaya and Taignoagny, the sons of Haudenosaunee Chief Donnacona, back to France; on his second voyage (1736) he takes Chief Donnacona and between 6 and 10 other Haudenosaunee people. Martin Frobisher captures several Inuit in the 1570s (red 19-20).  

1600s: Indigenous hunting, trapping, and tan-hiding skills become central to the colonial economy in what will later be called Canada. Indigenous communities are the world's main supplier of furs, particularly beaver pelts, for the European market (where the beaver had been hunted to extinction). Indigenous communities actively-and strategically-negotiate this economy to obtain labour-saving materials such as guns and ammunition, and copper cookware, and choose with whom they will trade (the English or the French) (red 29).

1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s: By following traditional ways regarding the reciprocal sharing of resources, and providing assistance to those in need, Indigenous communities across Turtle Island assist the newcomers as they arrive on Indigenous territory, acting as guides and translators, providing knowledge of food sources, and curing illnesses (such as scurvy).

1692: "The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy creates an historic pact with the English, recorded in the Two Row Wampum. The two rows symbolize two peoples, two paths, peace, friendship, respect, and the agreement that both nations would retain complete economic, political, and cultural sovereignty in their dealings with the other nation" (VSW 6).

1701: More than 1300 delegates of more than 40 First Nations converge on Montreal to engage in treaty negotiations to end more than 100 years of war between the Iroquois Confederacy and New Franct and its allies. The result is referred to as "The Great Peace" ("Aboriginal Political Agitation").

1715-1717: Thanadelthur, a Chipewyan woman held by the Cree (who had control of trade with the English at the time), escapes to Fort York. She negotiates peace between the Cree and Chipewyan people, to facilitate direct trade between her people and the English (red 10-12).

1759: As part of the Seven Years' War between the English and the French, the British defeat the French on [Mohawk?] territory (Quebec City), with the assistance of [confirm alliances--].

October 7, 1763: The Royal Proclamation of England formally acknowledges a nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the "Crown" of England, determining that Indigenous land can only be taken through negotiation or Indigenous consent to surrender territory, and that only the Crown can purchase Indigenous land (red 24). While legal scholars and governments will in the future argue if this Proclamation recognized existing Indigenous rights or created them (in which case government would also have the authority to deny them), Indigenous leaders will remain consistent in stating that their rights "come from the fact that native peoples lived here for centuries before the arrival of Europeans."

In sum, "the royal proclamation of 1763 contains a strong statement of aboriginal rights and firmly establishes that Canada is founded on three groups of cultures: english, french, and aboriginal" (red 25-28). Future Indigenous leaders will insist and ensure that the Proclamation is included in the Constitution Act of 1982.

1775-1776: Haudenosaunee Nations hold the balance of power in European wars (The Seven Years' War between the British and the French, and in the American Revolutionary War, between the new Americans and the British), and Indigenous leaders are courted by both sides.

Mohawk leaders konwatsi?tsiaienni  (Mary or Molly Brant) and Thayendanega (Joseph Brant), allies of the British in the American Revolution, negotiate a land agreement that provides about six miles on either side of the Grand River (in what is now called Ontario) where about 1,800 Iroquois settle and form the basis on the Six Nations confederacy (red 20-22). This Haldimand proclamation. "officially recognizes Six Nations land as stretching six miles on either side of the Grand River, from Lake Erie to Dundalk. This is approximately 950,000 acres of land. (VSW 8; qtg. "Six Nations Solidarity: Background" Six Nations Solidarity 2006 http://sisis.nativeweb.or/actionanalert/background.html  Jan 30, 2007.)

1795: The Crown begins to violate the Haldimand Proclamation. Lieutenant-Governor John Simcoe reduces the area formally recognized as the Six Nations land to 275,000 acres to give more land to settlers/colonizers. (VSW 8; qtg. "Six Nations Solidarity: Background" Six Nations Solidarity 2006 http://sisis.nativeweb.or/actionanalert/background.html  Jan 30, 2007).

late 1700s: Despite and in the face of continuing genocidal actions on the part of the English colonizers (including warfare, systemic attacks and a bounty placed on Beothuk scalps) and rapidly diminishing population, Beothuk people manage to raid English settlements.

1800s: The western Metis people, who have a land base focused on the Red River Settlements, spread to the north and west, establishing their unique identity, through the Michif language, as well as their role in the economy (red 80-82).

1823: Despite being captured by the English (and renamed ‘nance april'), and in the absence of any known other surviving Beothuk person, Shawnadithit is asked by those causing the genocide to record her knowledge in drawings. She dies of tuberculosis and her head is sent to England for study.  The sketches survive as a testament to her people, and are now being re-read by contemporary Indigenous peoples, within an Indigenous world view.

1839: A law is passed in Upper Canada (now in Ontario) to protect Indigenous ("Indian") lands from trespassers, and from seizure for non-payment of debt. It will be amended in 1840, to designate "Indian" land as crown land, held in trust for Indigenous people, and therefore free of taxation (red 54).

1850: The Anishnabe people enter into two treaties to allow access into their territories, providing access to timber to rebuild Chicago, following the Great Chicago Fire (red 39).

1857: "An act to encourage the gradual civilization of the Indians of this province" is passed by the United Canadas. The act broadly defines "Indians" by ancestry, marriage to an "Indian," and band membership, and denies citizenship rights unless they could read or write English or French, be free of debt, and ‘be of good moral character' (red 55). 

 As Peter Kulchyski notes, "in one of the great unwritten episodes of Canadian history' the vast majority of Indians voted with their feet on whether they wanted rights as canadian citizens or rights as indians: they were massively in favour of remaining indian" (red 64).

1862-63: Gabriel Dumont, born in 1837, by now has learned six Indigenous languages as well as French, has been part of a group (led by his father and brother) that negotiated peace between the Metis and Dakota Sioux, and is elected leader of the Saskatchewan buffalo hunt (red 96).  

1875: Gabriel Dumont makes headlines in eastern Canada for enforcing a rule about the buffalo  hunt which states that any hunter, white or Indigenous, must join the collective hunt-overriding an independent, English-Canadian led hunt. Recognizing the risk involved in arresting such a prominent member of the Métis community, the government gives him a warning only (red 96).

1867: The British North America Act contains a single, crucial line referring to Indigenous peoples. Section 91 (Line 24) claims that Indians and lands reserved for Indians are the "responsibility" of the federal, not provincial, government, ignoring Indigenous sovereignty and setting off a long history of dispute between federal and provincial governments regarding Indigenous affairs.

Oct. 16, 1869: The western Métis create the National Committee of the Métis, with John Bruce as president and Louis Riel as secretary, in response to the Rupertsland Purchase (in which the ‘northwest' was sold by the Hudson's Bay Company to the government of Canada, and over which the government was to appoint a governor and council to rule the area, effective 30 November 1869). The Métis set up a blockade and refuse to grant Governor McDougall entry into their territories.

2 November 1869: Riel and 120 men take control of Fort Garry from the Hudson Bay Company, and form a provisional government until such time that they can hold elections. They issue a List of Rights and a "Declaration of the People of Rupertsland" and prepare to negotiate with the government of Canada on a nation to nation basis (red 82-86).

25 April 1869: Prime Minister John A. Macdonald meets with delegates from the Métis provisional government, and reach an agreement that includes protection for Métis land and cultural rights (red 82-86).

12 May 1869: The Manitoba Act is passed, and includes Section 31, which provides 1.4 million acres of land "for the families of the half-breed residents" (red 82-86).

1869: The government clearly recognizes (but won't admit) the continuing threat to imperialist nation building posed by Indigenous resistance, the failure of the 1857 Enfranchisement Act (because so few Indigenous people signed up), and declares an "Act for the Gradual Enfranchisement of Indians."  [confirm source]

1870:  Indigenous peoples enter into the first of 11 numbered treaties with the Government of Canada. Indigenous peoples use the word ‘treaty' but perceive it from their world views. They do not ‘sign' a treaty, but ‘make treaty' or ‘enter treaty' on a nation-to-nation basis. The word is understood as verbs in English are understood, as an action. To ‘make treaty' is to make and sustain relationship. (Source: J. Kelly). Currently, "aboriginal scholars have started to question whether it was even possible conceptually, within indigenous worldview, to surrender land; something they very likely didn't see themselves or anyone else as ‘owning.'

Further, the surrender clauses in the numbered treaties only mention land and not water; "hence, an argument can be made for the fact that throughout the treaty area first nations still have aboriginal title to all the lakes and rivers they traditionally used and occupied" (red 48).

1876: Despite the pressures resulting from the depletion of the buffalo, Cree leader Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) refuses to sign Treaty 6 because it would take away his people's ability to govern themselves. With Metis leader Louis Riel, an agreement is made with Indigenous people in the USA to allow Mistahimaskwa and his people to hunt south of the border; the US army drives Mistahimaskwa and his people back, forcing him to sign the treaty, reluctantly, in 1882. (red)

1884: Mistahimaskwa arranges a thirst (sun) dance on Poundmaker's reserve in Saskatchewan, drawing 2000 people. The influence and resiliency of Mistahimaskwa and the ways of the Cree are clearly a threat to the land-grabbing government, which subsequently places a ban on the dance and on the movement of Indigenous peoples.  
1877: Treaty Seven is signed at Blackfoot Crossing. The Treaty covers a large portion of territory now overlain by southern Alberta.

1883: In a court case over whether the provincial or the federal government has the right to decide if the St. Catherine's Milling and Lumber Company can cut timber in northern Ontario (and in the absence of an Indigenous participants), the Federal Government argues that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 had given the Ojibwa peoples and other Aboriginal Peoples, absolute title to their territories (which they could then exchange or trade through treaty with the federal government). 

 The Court, however, ‘determined' that Aboriginal people did not have outright ownership of their traditional lands and that the Crown had underlying ownership. Therefore, the court said, Indigenous title involved ‘usufructuary rights'-the right to use but not own something-and that Indigenous people had the rights to hunt and fish on the land, but not own it (Red 49-52). The Court did not attempt to define or clarify these rights any further.  

1880s: The Mohawk community at Akwesasne-with a long history of women's participation in leadership--sends numerous petitions to government asking that their traditional political system be respected, in the face of the sexist Section 73 of the 1880 Indian Act, which stated that "those entitled to vote at the council or meeting thereof shall be male members of the band." In 1899, the federal government and the RCMP physically forced the government's electoral system on the First Nation (red 76-77).  

1884: Gabriel Dumont and other Métis people angry at the government's ongoing refusal to recognize title to their land organize at the Métis community of Batoche. The Métis organize into an official union, draft a petition of rights, as well as meet with Chief Mistahimaskwa to promote solidarity between the First Nation and Métis interests (red 87).

March 26, 1885: At Duck Lake, the Métis attack and rout the initial force of Northwest Mounted Police, sent by John A. Macdonald to suppress the Métis resistance. Riel doesn't press further attacks, in the hope of negotiating recognition of Métis rights. The second wave of militia ordered by Macdonald, 1000 men strong, arrives two days later (red 90-91).

Late March, 1885: While Cree leader Mistahimaskwa cautions against killing or stealing, rebel factions within the Cree community, led by Wandering Spirit, gather the white men in the community at Frog Lake to imprison them; Indian agent Tom Quinn (notoriously cruel) and eight other men, mostly priests and Hudson Bay Company staff, are killed (red 90-91).

9-12 May, 1885: During the battle of Batoche, the Métis string a heavy rope across the banks of the Saskatchewan River, and snag the smokestack of the Northcote, disabling the first Canadian navy vessel to see military action (red 92). The Métis, however, run out of ammunition fairly quickly in the face of the large military presence; a young Colonel named Arthur Williams defies orders to not charge the Metis position, and defeats the Metis. Riel and Dumont escape (red 93).

1 July 1885: After having held off the government's troops for weeks, Chiefs Poundmaker and Mistahimaskwa surrender (red 94).

1888: Speaking for the Nisga'a at a Royal Commision regarding the question of treaties or land claims in what is now British Columbia, David Mackay argues that the government cannot grant land "when it is our own" (red  101).

1888: The Canadian government grants amnesty to members of the Métis resistance who left for the United States and Gabriel Dumont returns to Canada, initially to Quebec, then Saskatchewan (red 97).

1899: During the signing of Treaty 8, the Lubicon Lake Cree are out on the land hunting, and are not included, and not provided a reserve (red 124).

1908: The Nisga'a people form the Nishga Land Committee, which takes a petition for their land to the Privy Council Office in London England in 1913. (The petition is unsuccessful.) (red 101)

1910: The drastic effects of intensive European whaling, trade (particulary of alcohol for fox and seal furs), and the introduction of European diseases are felt by the Mackenzie Inuit, whose distinct culture is considered virtually gone by this time (red 35).

1915: At a second Royal Commission on the land issue in British Columbia, the Nisga'a, through Gideon Minesque, again argue that the government has no authority or title because "the land belongs to us" (red 102).

1914-1918: 3500 Aboriginal soldiers enlist and serve Canada during World War I. (They will be denied veteran's benefits received by non-Aboriginal veterans.)

1919: Further to the creation of provincial organizations such as the Allied Tribes of BC, and The Grand General Indian Council of Ontario, and resistance to the Oliver Act (legislation to automatically enfranchise Indigenous World War 1 veterans, and to remove their status as Indigenous people) a national political organization for Indigenous people in Canada is created with the founding of the League of Indians (red 98).

1927: The influence and potential influence of the League of Indians and its popular leader Fred Ogilvie Loft are indicated by the efforts of the Department of Indian Affairs to monitor and curb their activities, including the presence of the RCMP at League conventions, and an Amendment to the Indian Act, ‘preventing anyone from collecting dues in order to fight on behalf of Indians' (red 99). Anyone who raised money for "Indian causes" could be fined or imprisoned (103).

Post-WWI and 1920s: Indigenous Peoples on the prairies develop and maintain the League of Western Indians (Miller, "Political").

1927: The Innu continue to hunt caribou in their traditional territories, ignoring the division of their territory in half (part in Newfoundland and part in Quebec) imposed this year by the Canadian and British governments, and risking arrest in doing so (red 134).

1930: The Natural Resources Transfer Act grants authority over crown land in Alberta to the government of Alberta (red 125). This will have a huge impact on Indigenous land, mineral, and water rights in coming decades.

1931: The Native Brotherhood of British Columbia is formed (Canada in the Making).

1939: The Indian Association of Alberta is formed (Miller, "The Political Response").

1939: The Supreme Court determines that the Inuit fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, despite the federal government's protests to the contrary (Miller).

1939-45: Dene communities find themselves involved in the war effort through uranium mining; Dene men, unprotected, carry uranium on their backs, in burlap sacks. The health effects are both immediate and long-term, but a response of any consequence regarding cancer rates in the  communities of Port Radium and Great Bear Lake, is perpetually deferred by government.

1940: The federal government, having discovered 10 years earlier that it had overlooked the Lubicon Lake Cree in Treaty 8, promises them a reserve 65 square kilometres in size, based on the band's population at the time (red 124).

1942: The Department of National Defence wants to use 2,211 acres of the Stony Point Reserve for a military camp. Located on the shores of Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario, this is the territory of the Kettle Point and Stony Point peoples. A government representative asks the First Nations to surrender the land voluntarily. They refuse. Using the War Measures Act, the Department of National Defence take over the land and call it Camp Ipperwash. They pay $15 per acre for the land. (Stavrou, 2006).  

1944: The North American Indian Brotherhood forms to act as a national body for Indigenous nations in Canada. Led by Andrew Paul (Squamish, b. 1892), the NAIB will pressure the government to set up a special committee to revise the Indian act, argues for the resolution of land claims in British Columbia, and raises the question of Canadian citizenship for Indigenous Canadians (red 106-08).

1946-47: Indigenous leaders challenge the federal government's special committee to investigate the Indian Act for not including Indigenous leaders in the process; bands from across Canada submit hundreds of submissions to the committee regarding changes to the Indian Act, and Indigenous leaders, like John Calihoo of the Indian Association of Alberta, speak directly to the committee. The committee recommends the setting up of a land claims commission, granting bands more financial control of their affairs, limiting the powers of the superintendent general of Indian affairs, and granting the federal vote to Status Indians. The recommendations, however, are ignored in the subsequent legislation (red 113).

1951: Earlier amendments to the Indian Act are finally repealed in Bill C-179, the revised Indian Act of this year. Earlier restrictions such as bans on the sundance and potlatch ceremonies, the ‘pass system', which required that an Indigenous person living on reserve had to have the Indian Agent's written permission to travel off of the reserve, and the 1927 ban on the collection of money to support Indian causes-and in effect, denying Aboriginal people the right of political assembly and organization--are removed (red 105, 115).

1951: Section 12 (1) (B) of Bill C-179 puts Indigenous women in a vexed legal position: formally granted the right to vote for band councils and be involved in local political affairs but ensuring that any Indigenous woman's status-with their band and regarding treaty rights-would be lost upon marriage to a non-Indigenous man (red 118).

1953: In a combination of paternalistic concern for Inuit communities and an assertion of Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic, the federal government creates Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, relocating people from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet. Many of the relocated ask to be returned to their home territories the following year, but are denied (red 120-23).

1958: James Gladstone (Kainai First Nation) becomes the first Aboriginal Senator in Canada. He holds this position until 1970.

1960: "Indians" are no longer required to give up their treaty rights and renounce their status under the Indian Act in order to qualify to vote in federal elections. The citizenship question is consequently blurred. (Elders' Voices)

1961: In order to strengthen their collective voice across Canada, Indigenous peoples create the National Indian Council (NIC) (Miller).

1968: The National Indian Brotherhood (NIB), a body of "status Indians" and the Canadian Métis Society are created from the National Indian Council (Miller).

1969: National and provincial bodies of Status Indians unite in solidarity against the federal government's "White Paper," which proposes the elimination of "Indians" as a separate legal category. The Trudeau government of the day (with later prime minister Jean Chretien as Indian Affairs Minister) claims that the provision of specific status of Indigenous peoples is the cause of the marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and that removal of separate ‘status' is fundamental to equality. Indigenous communities unite against what they see as a denial of their sovereignty, and treaty rights. The White Paper becomes a focal point for Indigenous activism, and generates both a subsequent "Red Paper" (written by Harold Cardinal of the Indian Association of Alberta), and calls for recognition of Indigenous Canadians as "Citizens Plus."

1970: The Métis National Council emerges from the Native Council of Canada (Miller).

1970: Blue Quills Indian Residential School is the first residential school in Canada to be transferred to band control (AHF).

1970s: The Soberman Report investigating the Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay relocations calls for a formal apology from the federal government to the affected communities  (red 123).

1971: The Inuit Tapirisat, a body to represent Inuit concerns, is created (Miller).

1971: The White Paper is formally withdrawn on March 17th of this year (red 155).

1970s: Dene attempt to block proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline project. [red, 47]:

1971: The Federal Government declares Bear Island, on Lake Temagami in Ontario, a reserve for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, who were missed in the 1850 Robinson Treaties and had been asking for treaty rights since that time (red 128).

1973: In the Paulette Case, Dene elders "who had witnessed the signing of the treaties testified that they heard no mention of land during negotiations. they thought the treaty was a peace and friendship agreement. johnny (jean-marie) beaulieu remembered the commissioners' saying to the people of fort resolution: "we will pay out the treaty to you here and it has no binding on your land or country at all. It has nothing to do with this land" (red 47).  

1973: Following the demands of the National Indian Brotherhood for "Indian Control of Indian Education," the federal government concedes and grants bands the right to manage education on reserves. (Confirm details; Miller).

1973: The CALDER CASE: While Indigenous communities have centuries-long histories of custodianship of land, the existence of the concept of Aboriginal title is formally recognized as a concept in Canadian common law through the Calder case. Here, the Nisga'a Nation claims Aboriginal title to its traditional lands in B.C., arguing that this title has not been extinguished by colonization or Crown or provincial laws (INAC).

1973: The James Bay Cree and Inuit go to court to stop the James Bay hydro-electric project, which they argue will flood their traditional territories, the title to which they had never surrendered. The court case is the longest hearing over the issue of a temporary injunction in Canadian history. In November, Justice Malouf hands down the decision that the province of Quebec was trespassing on traditional Aboriginal rights, and title had not been extinguished. While the Quebec Court of Appeal overturns the injunction after a one-day hearing, and the Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear the case, Malouf's initial decision has an important impact, forcing the government of Quebec into negotiations, which lead to a major land claim (red 144-45).

1973: The Teme-Augama Anishnabai ban files a ‘land caution' to prevent anyone from taking over or developing land until the question of title is sorted out.

1974: The government of Canada creates a two-stage land claims resolution process: "specific" claims are to address failures of the crown to fulfil its obligations as outlined in treaty or legislation, and "comprehensive claims" concern lands where Indigenous title or customary proprietorship had not been eradicated through treaty (particularly British Columbia, Quebec, Labrador, and the Northwest and Yukon Territories).

1975: Dene chief Frank T'Selei and Dene spokesperson Stephen Kakfwi vehemently oppose the construction of the proposed Mackenzie Delta pipeline on behalf of their people and land. When the Berger Commission releases its report in two years' time, it will, based on the voices of Indigenous communities, reject the proposal and recommend any further consideration be delayed for at least 10 years.

1975: The Nielson Report recommends turning services for Indigenous Canadians over to the provinces, which Indigenous Leaders strenuously argue against (red 61).

1975: The first modern land claim agreement is signed: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. It involves a payment of $232 million over 21 years, to the Indigenous peoples of the region, the granting of 5,500 square kilometres of land for their exclusive use, the surrender of Indigenous rights to remaining territories, and number benefit programs and conditions on the hydro-electric project. Completed quickly under pressure from all sides, the deal and its impacts remain both significant, and controversial. Several amendments will be made in coming years, including the inclusion of the Naskapi (red 145-49).

1980s: The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) evolves from the National Indian Brotherhood (Miller).

1982: The Canadian Constitution Act reaffirms by name the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

1982: The Canadian Constitution is passed, with Section 35 stating  that "the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed." Section 35(2) defines Aboriginal peoples of Canada as including the "Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples."  

1984: Self-government legislation is passed with the Cree-Naskapi Act. It replaces some aspects of the Indian Act and James Bay Cree and the Naskapi bands act as local governments and owners of Cree lands (red 149).

1985: The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples calls Bill C-31 a form of "Abocide." The Bill reinstates Aboriginal Status to Aboriginal women who lost their status under the Indian Act when they married non-Status or white men. While the Bill is applauded for aligning this section of the Indian Act with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms regarding gender discrimination, what is lesser known is that Bill C-31 places limits on the Status of children of reinstated women. (CAP)

1986: The United Church of Canada is the first church involved in the Indian Residential School system to formally apologize for their role in the system; other churches involves follow--The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1991), the Anglican Church (1993), and the Presbyterian Church (1994), and the United Church will later issue a second apology. (AHF, "A Condensed Timeline of Events")-confirm source.

1986: The Lubicon Lake Cree begin to protest against resource development on their territories, and its subsequent destruction of wildlife and habitat. E. Davie Fulton is hired as by the federal government as an independent consultant, to investigate and make recommendations on the Lubicon Lake Cree. His report is in support of the Lubicon, but is ignored by the government (red 126).

1987-1990s, and on: Innu protestors resist the increasing use of the Goose Bay military base for international NATO flight training with low-flying supersonic aircraft. (The number of test flights increasing to 7,000 annually, and a proposal suggests building a new training centre and  increasing this number to 40,000.) The protestors set up a camp on the bombing range, and later, storm the runway, shutting down the operations. The Innu garner international support, win an initial trial, but later lose on appeal. While the new centre is not built, the number of flights does increase (red 140).

June 1, 1988: The Teme-Augama Anishnabai continue their fight for recognition of their title and blockade access to roads being constructed by logging companies and leading into old-growth forests they claim as traditional territory. The blockade becomes hostile, with many people on the blockade arrested, and many charges laid. The band garners support of non-native environmentalists, and students and professors of universities and of Ontario leader of the Opposition Bob Rae (NDP). After 6 ½ months, the Ontario Court of appeal orders both removal of the blockade and a halt to further road construction; the provincial government eventually is forced to revise its plans for the area and a joint management authority, with the local Anishnabai playing a prominent role, is created (red 132).

1988: The Lubicon Lake Cree gain national and international attention for their cause and call for boycotts of both the Winter Olympics in Calgary and "The Spirit Sings" exhibit of Aboriginal Culture at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. On October 15th of this year, the Lubicon set up a blockade on the road that accesses their traditional lands, and offer to sell their own licences to companies wanting access to their land. Bernard Ominayak, Chief of the Lubicon, and Premier Don Getty come to an agreement by which the provincial government provided some land for the band (red 127).

1990: In the Sioui Case, involving Huron Indians using wood from a provincial park in what is now called Quebec, the Supreme Court aggress that ‘the treaty must be construed not according to the technical meaning of its words to learned lawyers, but in the sense in which they would naturally be understood by the Indians" (red 45 - check another source).

Summer 1990: Members of the Mohawk Khanawake and Kanasetake communities set up blockades to protest and stop the expropriation of their territory for a nine-hole golf course. The Quebec military and then the Canadian army is brought in to dismantle the blockade; members of the community tolerate the overt racism of neighbouring white communities, which includes blocking the nearby Mercier bridge and pelting cars trying to enter Montreal with rocks. The standoff lasts several weeks and garners international and national attention to Indigenous land rights in Canada. The crisis increases the awareness of the Canadian public to Indigenous history and perspectives in Canada, and contributes to the creation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Summer 1990: Elijah Harper, indigenous MLA for Manitoba, stalls a vote in the legislature that would grant Quebec distinct recognition under the Canadian Constitution but would ignore Indigenous leaders' concerns about recognition of Aboriginal rights in Canada. (Newfoundland premier Clyde Wells, also unsatisfied with the Accord, refused to bring the matter to a vote in the Newfoundland legislature.) Harper garners national and international attention, and the acclaim of Indigneous communities.

1990: Canada's Supreme Court rules that the Métis Federation in Manitoba may proceed with its legal challenge to claim areas of the Red River Valley promised to them in the 1870s (Timeline: Aboriginal Justice and Self-Determination).

Early 1990s: After decades of legal battles that go to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Teme-augama Anishnabai lose their fight for the recognition of their title; the court argues, among other things, that the band had surrendered title through the treaty process (of which the First Nation had always argued they had never been part of) (red 129-31).

1990: In another landmark case, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that First Nations have an aboriginal right to fish for food, social, and ceremonial purposes, that this right should be interpreted generously, and that this right takes priority over all others except conservation. The case began when Ronald Sparrow, a Musqueam man, was charged with contravening federal regulations when fishing in the lower Fraser River, with a driftnet longer than permitted. Sparrow argued that net size restriction contravened his rights affirmed in the Constitution Act 1982. The court also ruled that:

  • Aboriginal and treaty rights are capable of evolving over time;

  • Governments must regulate aboriginal rights only for a compelling and substantial objective such as conservation. After conservation goals are met, Aboriginal people must be given priority to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. (Nisgaa First Nation)


1993: In conjunction with the United Nations Decade of World Indigenous Peoples, the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards are created to recognize the contributions of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in a wide range of fields in Canada. Fourteen recipients are honoured annually.

September 1995: A group of Indigenous protestors erects barricades in Ipperwash Provinvial Park in Ontario to protest the government's refusal to return territory expropriated during World War II for use as a military training base. When the provincial police move in to disperse the protestors, one, Dudley George, is killed. While there was a financial settlement, the communities continued to demand an inquiry into Dudley George's death ("Aboriginal Political Agitation").

1996: The final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples is released; Volume 1, Chapter 10, deals with residential schools, and the Commission recommends that a formal apology, and compensation to survivors, be provided. The report is comprehensive, wide ranging, and welcomed by Indigenous communities and their allies.
13 June 1996: The Governor General of Canada proclaims June 21st to be National Aboriginal Day (INAC).

1997: In the historic Delgamuukw Case (begun in 1984), the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time addresses the issue of Aboriginal title. The Gitxsan Nation and the Wet'suwet'en Nation in British Columbia claim ownership of and jurisdiction over 133 individual territories (58,000 square km). The Court did not rule as to whether the nations have Aboriginal title to the land, but did confirm that Aboriginal title is a right to the land itself, and not just the right to hunt, fish, or gather. They also determined that when dealing with Crown land, the government must consult with and may have to compensate First Nations whose rights are affected. The court also confirmed that oral history is a legitimate source of evidence regarding title, and that Aboriginal title is a constitutional right. (Michel-Adrien Sheppard).

1998: The federal government offers a Statement of Reconciliation to survivors of Residential Schools, and provides $350 million dollars to create the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, to support community recovery from the devastation of the Residential School System.

1 April 1999: The government of Nunavut comes into being as a self-governing territory of Indigenous (primarily Inuit and Dene) people. (Timeline: Aboriginal Justice)

September 1999: In the Marshall Decision the Supreme Court of Canada rules that Donald Marshal, a Mi'kmaq fisherman, could fish out of season as a treaty right (established in 1760). The decision is followed by standoffs between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups ("Aboriginal Political Agitation").

May 2000: Members of the St'at'imc Nation establish Sutikalh camp near Mt. Currie, BC, to stop construction of a massive ski resort (Tupac Keshena).

2002: A mechanism for survivors of Indian Residential Schools to be compensated for abuse at the schools, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Framework, is put in place (AHF.)

September 2005: Iskut elder Mabel Dennis is among 9 Tahltan and Iskut elders arresed for blockading the road to Kabona, the Sacred Headwaters, in protest over coal bed methane mining by Fortune Minerals and Shell Canada. A group of elders declares a moratorium on any further resource extraction/development on their territory (Wonders).

2005: Following several years of grass-roots consultations, First Nations leaders, provincial premiers, and Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin sign the unprecedented Kelowna Accord. The Accord is a comprehensive, longterm agreement to address education, housing, economic development, health and clean water concerns in First Nations communities, and is worth $5 billion. (Within days, Martin's government falls, and Conservative Prime Minister axes the Accord, to the outrage of Indigenous communities, leaders, and allies.)

2005: In Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that the Crown had breached its duty to consult and its obligation to respect the existing treaty rights of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in regards to earlier decisions regarding the construction of a road on their territory (Blakes).

April 2006: Ontario Provinvial Police attempt to forcible remove a blockade at the Six Nations reserve territory near Caledonia, in southern Ontario, set up by members of the Nation to protest the construction of a housing development on territory they claim as theirs under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1775-6. They arrest 16 protestors, and tensions run high between the First Nations and non-Indigenous communities in the area.  "The area officially designated by the Canadian government as the Six Nations reserve is now less than 5% of the original area promised by the Crown in 1784" (VSW 8; qtg. "Six Nations Solidarity: Background" Six Nations Solidarity 2006 http://sisis.nativeweb.or/actionanalert/background.html  Jan 30, 2007.

Sept. 13, 2007: The United Nations ratifies its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Declares its policy on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government of Canada, along with that of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, vote against the declaration. By 2011, each of these opposing nations had reversed its decision.

2008: The Government of Canada formally apologizes for the Indian Residential School system and the trauma it created. This is the first time that Indigenous leaders have been allowed to speak from the floor of the House of Commons.

2008: Indigenous protestors and their allies disrupt the Olympic "Spirit Train" to draw attention to the fact that the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were to be held on unceded Indigenous territory  (Tupac Keshena).

2009: In the Ahousaht litigation, the Nuu-chah-nulth claim the right to harvest and sell fish on a commercial scale as well as title to lands submerged. The BC Supreme Court declares that the Nuu-chah-nulth have an Aboriginal right to harvest and sell all species of fisheries resources, though this is not without limitations in contemporary times (INAC).

2010: 22 modern treaties have been negotiated across Canada, though no First Nation has proven Aboriginal title within the Canadian court system (INAC).

April 2010: Members of the Grassy Lake First Nation converge on the Ontario Legislature, drawing attention to the ongoing effects, and lack of compensation for, the mercury poisoning inflicted on the community as a result of a pulp and paper mill's operations more than 30 years earlier. The mill dumped the equivalent of more than 9,000 kg of mercury in the Wabigoon River between 1972 and 1970. The protestors demand further examination of the cumulative effects of the mercury poisoning, and a permanent monitoring system.

2010: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission launches nationwide events to commemorate former students/survivors (and those who did not survive) of the Indian Residential Schools. Survivors share their testimonies in the development of a national archive of their experiences.

January 2010: Inuit individuals and organizations (including Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Circumpolar Council [Greenland] file a lawsuit in the European General Court to overturn European Union legislation that would ban the import of seal products into EU countries (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami). They will win an injunction to stop this ban in August of this year.

August 18, 2010: Inuit families who were relocated from their traditional territories to unfamiliar communities and territories and who suffered significant hardship (physical, emotional, economic, and cultural) as a result, receive an apology from the Minister of Indian Affairs  on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians.