Case study: First Nations Peoples - language learners version

 Context card

Black and white picture of an Aboriginal Pow Wow in Rat Portage, Ontario
Source: McCord Museum, MP-3321

 

First Nations communities have their own traditional ways to govern themselves. These ways are different from the federal election system. 

For most of Canada’s history, First Nations peoples could only vote in a federal election if they gave up their Indian status. 

In 1960, First Nations people gained the right to vote in federal elections without conditions.


Activity cards

1867

Black and white watercolour of a family making baskets (centre) and two men standing (right).]
Source: Courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum

 

The federal government takes on responsibility for First Nations peoples (called Indians at that time) without asking them.

You have to own property to vote in federal elections. Not many First Nations people own property.     


1869

Black and white portrait of a First Nations man from the Plains.
Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-550-9

 

For the first time, a law mentions federal voting rights for First Nations peoples. 

They can vote but only if they give up their Indian status. 


1876

Black and white photo of a group of Indigenous people in Western Canada.
Source: Glenbow Archives, PA-3069-9

 

Parliament passes the Indian Act. The Act defines “Indian status” in detail.

First Nations men who become doctors, lawyers or religious leaders lose their Indian status without their consent. They can vote because the law no longer considers them to be “Indians.”      


1917

Black and white photo of the first time Indigenous men joined the Canadian Forces as soldiers.  First two rows: Indigenous men, some in traditional regalia. Last two rows: men in their soldier uniform.
Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-041366

 

Canada participates in the First World War. First Nations men and women in the military can vote in federal elections. 

They do not have to give up their Indian status. 

After the war, they lose the right to vote if they go back to living on a reserve.


1948

Black and white photo of Sergeant Tommy Prince (on the right), 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, with his brother, Private Morris Prince, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-142289

 

Tommy Prince and other First Nations veterans speak to a parliamentary committee. 

They say that First Nations people should have the right to vote without any conditions. 


1960

Black and white photo of John Diefenbaker with Chief Jimmy Bruneau of Rae, Chief Joe Sangris, and the Mayor of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in discussion.
Source: University of Saskatchewan, University Archives & Special Collections, John G. Diefenbaker fonds MG 411, JGD 3635

 

All First Nations men and women gain the right to vote without any conditions.  

Prime Minister Diefenbaker had made this promise during the 1957 election.


1996

Co-Chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Georges Erasmus speaks in front of a microphone.
Source: The Canadian Press / Dave Buston

 

Georges Erasmus is Co-Chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The Commission reports that First Nations peoples do not see voting rights as a way to improve their lives.


2019

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde addresses the crowd at the Assembly of First Nations.
Source: The Canadian Press / Stephen MacGillivray

 

Perry Bellegarde is the the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He urges all First Nations people to use their right to vote in the 2019 federal election.


From time immemorial to the present

Black and white photo of two Indigenous men in a bark canoe in Restigouche, Quebec.]Black and white photo of two Indigenous men in a bark canoe in Restigouche, Quebec.
Source: McCord Museum, MP-1452137

 

Hundreds of distinct First Nations govern themselves for thousands of years. Each nation has its own complex system of government. Each nation has its own way of choosing its leaders.