Aboriginal Canadians and European settlers In the history of contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, there has been an imbalance in acculturative influences. Generally, Aboriginal peoples have been changed substantially, with serious erosion of their cultures and identities. However, this dominance by Euro Canadian peoples has also been met by resistance by Aboriginal peoples.
Policy and programme changes to alter the relationship between these two sets of people are suggested, including a reduction in pressures toward assimilation and segregation which have historically resulted in the marginalization of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. When individuals experience intercultural contact, the issue of who they are comes to the fore. Prior to major contact, this question is hardly an issue; people routinely and naturally think of themselves as part of their cultural community, and usually value this attachment in positive terms.
Of course, other life transitions (such as adolescence) can lead people to wonder, and even doubt, which they are. But it is only during intercultural contact that their cultural identity may become a matter of concern. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples established a research project on Aboriginal cultural identity, and commissioned reports on the subject.
This paper is based on one of those reports, and draws upon concepts, data and analyses that were carried out as a consultant to that project The main line of argument in this paper is that intercultural contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada (both historically, and at the present time), has initiated a process of acculturation (at both the cultural and psychological levels), during which Aboriginal peoples have experienced cultural disruption, leading to reducedwell-being and to identity confusion and loss.
It is further argued that sincethis process has resulted from interactions between Aboriginal and nonAboriginal peoples, the key to reestablishing a sense of well-being and secure cultural identity resides in restructuring the relationships between these two communities. This paper contains four sections: a discussion of the concept of cultural identity, as it derives from the social science literature; a brief review of the process and consequences of intercultural contact; a summary of the main findings; and a discussion of their implications for policy and programmed.
May lead to more positive identities, and to cultural and psychological outcomes that are more fulfilling. Breton and Norman fishermen came into contact with the Algonquians of the northeast at the beginning of the 16th century, if not earlier, as they put into natural harbors and bays to seek shelter from storms and to replenish water and food supplies. There is some indication that these first contacts with Aboriginal inhabitants were not always friendly.
A few individuals were kidnapped and taken to France to be paraded at the court and in public on state and religious occasions. Also, precautions seem to have been taken to hide the women inland when parties landed from ships engaged in cod fishing or walrus hunting. On the other hand, there were mutually satisfactory encounters as trade took place. The Algonquian brought furs, hides and fish in exchange for beads, mirrors and other European goods of aesthetic and perhaps spiritual value. Both sides seemed content with this growing exchange.
Soon the Algonquian exacted goods of more materialistic value, such as needles, knives, kettles or woven cloth, while the French displayed an insatiable desire for well-worn beaver cloaks. In the 16th century, the French, like their western European neighbors, proceeded to lay claim to lands “not possessed by any other Christian prince” based on the European legal theory of Terra Nullius. This theory argued that since these lands were uninhabited, or at least uncultivated, they needed to be brought under Christian dominion.
The royal commission to ROBERVAL for the St Lawrence region, dated 15 January 1541, and La Roche’s commission for SABLE ISLAND in 1598 enjoined acquisition either by voluntary cession or conquest. By the early 17th century, as the FUR TRADE expanded and Catholic missionary work was seriously contemplated, a policy of pacification emerged. The fact that the French chose to colonize along the Bay of Fundy marshlands and the St Lawrence Valley, from which the original Iroquoians had disappeared by 1580, meant that no Aboriginal peoples were displaced to make way for colonists.
This peaceful cohabitation remained characteristic of Aboriginal-French relations up to the fall of ACADIA (1710) and of NEW FRANCE (1760). Beyond the Acadian farmlands and the Laurentian seigniorial tract, the Aboriginal peoples on their ancestral lands continued to be fully independent, following their traditional lifestyle and customs. Royal instructions to Governor Corellas in 1665 emphasized “the officers, soldiers and all His Majesty’s adult subjects treat the Indians with kindness, justice and equity, without ever causing them any hurt or violence. Furthermore, it was ordered that no one was to “take the lands on which they are living under pretext that it would be better and more suitable if they were French. ” Royal instructions in 1716 not only required peaceful relations with the Aboriginal peoples in the interests of trade and missions but also forbade the French from clearing land and settling west of the Montreal region seigneurs. In the PAYS D’EN HAUT, care was taken to obtain permission from the Aboriginals before establishing a trading post, fort, mission station or small agricultural community such as Detroit or in the Illinois country.
Following a conference with 80 Iroquois delegates at Quebec in the autumn of 1748, Governor La Galissoniere and Intendant Bigot reaffirmed that “these Indians claim to be and in effect are independent of all nations, and their lands incontestably belong to them. ” Nevertheless, France continued to assert its sovereignty and to speak for the “allied nations” at the international level. This sovereignty was exercised against European rivals through the allied “nations,” not at their expense through the suppression of local customs and independence.
The Aboriginal peoples accepted this protectorate because it offered them external support while permitting them to govern themselves and pursue their traditional ways. The MI’KMAQ, and later the Arenac, accepted the Catholic religion, even in the absence of large-scale sustained evangelization, as a confirmation of their alliance and brotherhood with the French and resistance to Anglo-American incursions. When the Milkman eventually signed a treaty of peace and friendship with the British authorities at Halifax in 1752, the ABENAKI who had taken refuge in Canada rebuffed the official delegate of the governor at Boston.
Beginning their apostolic labors in Acadia in 1611 and in Canada in 1615, Catholic MISSIONARIES dreamed of a rapid conversion of Aboriginal peoples and even wondered if they might not be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Traditional Milkman and Montagnais hospitality dictated that the itinerant missionaries be well received. Soon evangelization efforts were centered on the sedentary, horticultural and strategically located HURON confederacy (see STE MARIE AMONG THE HURONS).
But factionalism arising out of favoritism shown to converts and the EPIDEMICS that decimated the population almost brought the mission to a close. On two occasions, the JESUITS were spared execution or exile on charges of witchcraft only by French threats to cut off the trade on which the Huron had become dependent. Following the dispersal of the Huron in 1648-49, the missionaries turned to other groups in the Great Lakes basin, including the IROQUOIS confederacy, but they never enjoyed great success. Aboriginal peoples assumed a tolerant dualism: “you can have your ways and we will have ours, for everyone values his own wares. More success was achieved on the reductions, or reserves (see INDIAN RESERVE) as they came to be known, established within the seigniorial tract of New France. In 1637 the seigneur of SILLERY near Quebec was designated a reduction for some Montagnais encamped nearby as well as for all the northern hunters who would take up agriculture under Jesuit tutelage. Although the Montagnais did not remain long, some Arenac refugees came to settle, and finally Huron who escaped from the Iroquois conquest of their country.
Eventually there were reserves near each of the three French bridgeheads of settlement: Loretta near Quebec for the Huron; Betancourt and Saint-Francois near Trois-Rivieres for the Abenaki; Kahnawake near Montreal for the Iroquois and Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes for both ALGONQUINS and Iroquois. These reserves were relocated from time to time at ever greater distances from the principal towns not only because of soil exhaustion but also because of the desire of the missionaries to isolate the Aboriginal converts from the temptations of alcohol, prostitution and gambling.
The Kahnawake reserve, with the connivance of certain Montreal merchants, became an important link in an illicit trade with Albany and New York. The French designated those Aboriginal peoples who settled on these reserves under the supervision of Missionaries as “Indiens domicilies” (resident Indians). Those who came to live on reserves were motivated by religious ideals and the need to escape persecution or encroachment on their lands, but in time the economic advantages became quite substantial. It was often on the reserves that canoemen, scouts and warriors were recruited for trade and war.
The products of the field and the hunt, as well as the manufacture of canoes, snowshoes and moccasins found a good outlet on the Quebec market. At the time of the British CONQUEST of New France in 1760, the “resident Indians’ were united in a federation known as the SEVEN NATIONS of Canada. It is possible that this Aboriginal political organization, whose membership evolved over the years, dates back to the early days of the French regime at the time when the first Aboriginal “reductions” (reserves) were created in the St Lawrence valley.
Official French objectives had been to christianize and francize the Aboriginal peoples in order to attain the utopian ideal of “one people. ” The church tried to achieve this objective through itinerant missions, education of an Aboriginal elite in France, reserves and boarding schools, but in the end it was clear that the Aboriginal peoples would not abandon their culture, even when converted. It was the missionaries who, like the fur traders, learned the Aboriginal languages and adopted Aboriginal survival techniques.
Racial intermarriage, or metissage, traced its origin to the casual encounters, almost exclusively between Aboriginal women and Frenchmen deprived of European spouses, beginning with the fishermen and sailors along the Atlantic seaboard, and spreading into the hinterland as traders and interpreters, later unlicensed COUREURS DE BOIS, and finally garrison troops came into contact with the interior communities. VOYAGEURS and canoemen travelling to and from the upper country of Canada in the interests of the fur trade acquired the services of Aboriginal women to make and break camp, cook, carry baggage and serve as mistresses.
Many of these unions became long-lasting and were recognized locally as legitimate a la facon du pays. Canon law forbade the marriage of Catholics with pagans, so missionaries often had to instruct and baptize adults and children and then regularize such unions. In 1735 Louis XV forbade most mixed marriages; nevertheless the rise of METIS communities in the Great Lakes basin, particularly along Lake Superior, indicated the prevalence of the practice. Warfare was an aspect of Aboriginal life in which the French soon became involved.
Most of the Aboriginal people remained steadfastly attached and loyal to France through to PONTIAC’s rising in 1763, with the exception of the Iroquois, Fox and Sioux. Champlain, by supporting his Algonquian and Huron trading partners in 1609, earned the long-lasting enmity of the Iroquois. The French were unable to save the Huron from destruction at the hands of the Iroquois in 1648-49, nor were they able to stop Iroquois incursions into their own or their western allies’ territories until the peace of Montreal in 1701 (see IROQUOIS WARS).
The Fox became hostile in 1712 and were the objects of several military expeditions before their dispersal in 1730. The Sioux also often attacked France’s trading partners and allies before agreeing to a general peace settlement in 1754. Canadian militiamen and Aboriginal auxiliaries distinguished themselves also in expeditions to aid Louisiana against the Chickasaws and the Natchez. The escalation of tensions between the French and English over control of the fur trade in North America led to the signing of the TREATY OF UTRECHT in 1713.
Under the terms of the treaty, France retained access to Cape Breton Island, the St Lawrence Islands and fishing rights off Newfoundland but ceded Acadia (Nova Scotia) to the British and recognized British jurisdiction over the northern territory of RUPERT’S LAND and the island of Newfoundland. The Mi’kmaq, MALISEET and Passamaquoddy of the area, considered themselves to be friends and allies and not subjects of the French Crown, as well as the rightful owners of the territory ceded to the British Crown.
The lack of consultation regarding the terms of the treaty, and the lack of compensation provided to the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy upset them greatly, significantly shifting the balance of power and Aboriginal-French relations in the area. France spent large sums of money for the annual distribution of the “King’s presents” to the allied nations. In addition, the Crown issued clothing, weapons and ammunition to Aboriginal auxiliaries, paid for their services, and maintained their families when the men were on active duty. These Aboriginal warriors were judged invaluable for guiding, scouting and surprise raiding parties.
Their war aims and practices, including scalping and platform torture, were not interfered with as they generally fought alongside the French as independent auxiliaries. In defeat, the French remembered them, obtaining in the terms of capitulation (1760) that they be treated as soldiers under arms, that they “be maintained in the Lands they inhabit,” and that they enjoy freedom of religion and keep their missionaries. These terms were further reiterated in the Treaty of Oswegatchie, negotiated by Sir William JOHNSON, at Fort Levis (near present-day Ogdensburg, New York), on 30 August 1760, and reaffirmed at Kahnawake on 15-16 September 1760.
These two treaties set out the terms for British protection of the interest of the Seven Nations and for the peaceful colonial occupation of their lands. As a result of this conquest, the French monarchy capitulated New France to Great Britain and on 10 February 1763, France and Great Britain signed the TREATY OF PARIS. The treaty outlined the conditions of the capitulation, which involved a series of land exchanges in which France handed over their control of New France to the English.
Article 4 of the treaty provided for the transfer of French control of lands in North America east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. Under the terms of the treaty, Great Britain also gained control of Florida from the Spanish, who took control of New Orleans and the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi River from the French. In order to establish jurisdiction in the newly conquered Canadian colonies, on 7 October 1763, King George III and the British Imperial Government issued a Royal Proclamation outlining the management of the colonies.
Of particular importance, the proclamation reserved a large tract of unceded territory, not including the lands reserved for the Hudson’s Bay Company, east of the Mississippi River as “hunting grounds” for Aboriginal peoples. As well, the proclamation established the requirements for the transfer of Aboriginal title to the Crown, indicating that the Crown could only purchase Aboriginal lands and that such purchases had to be unanimously approved by a council of Aboriginal people.
The proclamation also provided the terms for the establishment of colonial governments in Quebec, West Florida, East Florida and Grenada. The colonies were granted the ability to elect general assemblies under a royally appointed governor and high council, with the power to create laws and ordinances, as well as establish civil and criminal courts specific to the area and in agreement with British and colonial laws.
References: 1994 Aboriginal Cultural Identity. Report submitted to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Ottawa, Ontario Aboud, F. 1981 Ethnic Self-identity, in R. C. Gardner and R. Kalin (Editors): A Canadian Social Psychology of Ethnic Relations. Toronto: Methuen. Keefe, S. E. 1992 Ethnic Identity: The Domain of Perceptions of, and Attachment to Ethnic Groups and Cultures. Human Organization 51 :35-43.
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