Canada: Government Of Canada Announces Designations Related To Aboriginal History

 

The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced the designation of 13 new national historic sites, persons, and events that recognize the place of Aboriginal history in the story of Canada.

 

"Today's designations will bring to life the spiritual, cultural, and physical ties that First Nations have to this country, for both Canadians and visitors to Canada," said Minister Kent. "They will give future generations an understanding of moments in time that span the centuries."

 

The new designations will be included in Canada's system of national historic sites, persons and events, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC). The designations include John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen), the celebrated war of 1812 hero from Ontario. As well, they include aboriginal leaders Chief Kw'eh of Fort St. James, British Columbia and Theophile Panadis of Odanak, Quebec. The cultural traditions of British Columbia's Nlaka'pamux (basket-making), the Coast Salish (Cowichan Sweaters), as well as those of Quebec's Abenakis (basket-making) are similarily honoured. The designations also recognize the long-lasting impact of events such as the displacement of the Anishinaabeg of Southern Georgian Bay, Ontario, the Moravian missions amongst the Inuit of Labrador, aboriginal military service in the First World War, and the tradition of the "Distribution of the King's Presents." Places of cultural significance to Canada's aboriginal peoples such as Beausoleil Island (Georgian Bay, Ontario), Wolastoq (New Brunswick) are also part of this year's designations.

 

"In Canada, Aboriginal communities are part of our history and our future," said Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, John Duncan. "Today's announcement serves to better tie these significant aboriginal places, people, and events to our shared heritage."

 

Established in 1919, and supported by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment regarding the national historic significance of places, persons and events that have marked Canada's history. Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up a rich tapestry of Canada's cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.

 

Backgrounder

 

National Historic Designations Aboriginal Peoples

 

Canada's program of historical commemoration recognizes nationally significant places, persons and events of Canadian history. Designations of national historic significance are made by the Minister of the Environment on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

 

Established in 1919, and supported by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment regarding national historic designations. Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up a rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.

 

This year’s designation of 13 persons, and events recognize the fundamental contributions of Aboriginal communities to Canada’s history. The designations celebrate places that bear witness to the spiritual, cultural, and physical ties nurtured by First Nations for millennia. They also recognize key leaders, the cultural traditions that speak to innovation and creativity, and the events that had a long-lasting impact on the future of Canada as we have come to know it today.

 

On Thursday March 22, 2012, the Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the following 13 historical commemoration designations of aboriginal persons, places, and events:

 

Beausoleil Island, Georgian Bay, Ontario

Beausoleil Island is representative of the cultural landscape of the Anishinaabeg of the southern Georgian Bay region, demonstrating the land’s role as a place of memory, illustrating their people’s relationship with the land, and recalling the Anishinaabe presence in Southern Ontario and their subsequent displacement. It is the setting for traditional narratives that record the island’s creation and meaning. Many traditions associated with the island relate to women, including their use of Beausoleil for gathering berries and other plants, and for traditional ceremonies such as girlhood to womanhood transformation rituals. Witness to a long history of settlement, the evolving landscape of the island includes evidence of ancient camps and of its brief period as a reserve in the mid 19th century when the Anishinaabeg struggled to find a new way to live that was compatible with their traditions and with the rapidly growing Euro-Canadian settlement surrounding them.

 

As a cultural landscape Beausoleil Island represents aspects of the relationship that has evolved over the centuries between the Anishinaabeg of the southern Georgian Bay area and their ancestral territories. It is the setting of many Anishinaabe oral traditions and serves as a physical link to the resources, routines and ceremonies that reflect their traditional way of life and anchor their collective memory and culture.

 

Archaeological studies have traced human habitation on Beausoleil Island to 10 millenia ago and have documented the island’s use as a way point on traditional trading routes and a seasonal habitat for various cultures over time. The Ojibway-Anishinaabe nations occupied the south Georgian Bay region from the late 17th century and established seasonal encampments on Beausoleil Island, utilizing its berry resources and the fine fishing areas along its eastern shore. In response to the increasing pressures of Euro-Canadian settlement the Anishinaabeg, under Chief John Assance, surrendered their lands in the Coldwater region of the mainland in 1838 and moved to a new reserve on Beausoleil Island. Here they established two settlements and attempted to grow crops in the European manner. The sandy soil, though suitable for temporary and cyclical occupation, was not able to sustain such cultivation. By 1852 most of Chief Assance’s people had moved to nearby Christian Island, though a few families stayed on, preserving an earlier way of life based on hunting, fishing, gardening and berry picking.

 

Wolastoq, New Brunswick

Wolastoq, the Beautiful River, is the name of the Saint John River in the language of the Maliseet. Maliseet call themselves Wolastoqiyik, the People of the Beautiful River. Wolastoq is a cultural landscape that has nurtured the Wolastoqiyik physically, culturally and spiritually over several millennia. The watershed of Wolastoq forms a vast network of rivers and lakes in New Brunswick, Quebec and northern Maine. Its headwaters are in Quebec and the river flows east and south for 700 km to Saint John Harbour and the Bay of Fundy.

 

The watershed represents the traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik and includes many sites of settlement, communication, resource utilization and spirituality. The great number of Aboriginal place names throughout the watershed provide links between the present and the past, complementing elders’ stories of traditional uses and evidence from archaeology.

 

Three properties represent the changing character of the river and its watershed. Each has a direct historical connection with the Wolastoqiyik, and each represents a major focal point on the river. Menahkwesh, at the mouth of the Saint John River, is an archaeological site showing habitation evidence beginning 4,000 years ago, including a Maritime Archaic cemetery, while later habitations include a Wolastoqkew settlement c. 1650-1700 adjacent to the remains of Fort La Tour. Kani Uten is an island located at the head of tide where the lower and middle portions of the river meet. It features archaeological sites and was the Wolastoqkew annual gathering spot and site of their Grand Council Chamber. Finally, Brother’s Garden at the Tobique First Nation marks the point of transition between the middle and upper portions of the river valley. It was formerly used as a garden by a community priest and has expansive views of the river and its valley.

 

Chief Kw’eh (ca. 1755-1840), Fort St. James, British Columbia

Chief Kw’eh used kinship ties as well as personal qualities and gifts to gain traditional rights and leadership over a wide territory and numerous Carrier (Dekelh-ne) communities in the late 18th century, bringing new stability after decades of warfare between the Carrier and Chilcotin in north-central British Columbia. He oversaw the end of the era when traditional Aboriginal leadership in this region functioned without foreign interference. He used his skills as a diplomat and leader to negotiate a mutually satisfactory relationship with Euro-Canadian traders who entered lands to which he had traditional rights, played a significant role in the development of the fur trade, and showed moral strength in resolving without violence a conflict with the young Hudson’s Bay Company clerk James Douglas. A focus for Carrier identity, he has an ongoing legacy among the Central Carrier communities as “dreamer of the salmon.” It is said that as long as he is remembered, he will continue to provide for people by presiding over the salmon fishery from his burial place at the mouth of the Stuart River.

 

Chief Kw’eh was born into a noble Carrier family in a period of intense rivalry and warfare with the Chilcotin people as both struggled to control the exchange of coastal and interior trade. By slaying his father’s killer Kw’eh took over the latter’s prestige and hereditary hunting territories. He increased and consolidated his authority through marriage, the traditional potlatch distribution of food and goods, and of salmon and beaver hunting rights. He exhibited fine decision making abilities, instances of apparently supernatural gifts and the diplomatic skills of negotiation and measured response. Within the Carrier community he emerged as a strong leader with impressive physical abilities, wide influence and spiritual powers.

 

Simon Fraser established the first fur trading post on Stuart Lake, in the midst of Chief Kw’eh’s territorial influence in 1806. With his control of the salmon fishery in the area, the post’s main source of sustenance, Kw’eh soon became his people’s representative with the newcomers who gave him, in addition to his Carrier honours, the title of fur trade chief. Chief Kw’eh used the diplomatic skills that had brought him prominence among the Carrier community to develop a relationship of relative equality in the new commercial fur trade. With regional control of the salmon fishery and the beaver hunt Chief Kw’eh encouraged his people to supply the North West and Hudson’s Bay Company traders both food and furs, and oversaw an equitable distribution of European trade goods in return. He used his influence and power to melt the disparate needs and abilities of two dissimilar cultures, establishing a mutually beneficial and substantially non-violent relationship.

 

Chief Kw’eh has acquired mythic qualities and deep symbolic meanings for the Carrier and has become a focus of the “golden age” of traditional Carrier life. His gravesite near the mouth of the Stuart River is maintained with reverence by the Carrier people.

 

John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) (1770- After 1823), Ontario

John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) was born in or near Crail, Scotland, on 16 December 1770, to Scotswoman Christian Anderson and to John Norton. The latter was a Cherokee, or part-Cherokee, rescued as a child and brought to Scotland by a soldier who fought in South Carolina during the Anglo-Cherokee War (1759-1761). Their son, John Norton, appears to have received a thorough education, in later life displaying impressive literary, linguistic, and oratorical skills. He became a political leader among the Six Nations of the Grand River tract, an influential military leader of the Six Nations who fought on the side of the British during the War of 1812, and an author.

 

John Norton arrived in Quebec in 1785 as a private soldier in the 65th Foot. He deserted and was discharged in 1788 and may have lived with the Cayuga in western New York State for a time. In 1790 or 1791, he taught in the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga, Bay of Quinte, then worked as a trader in the Ohio Valley. In 1794, he returned to Upper Canada and became an interpreter for the Indian Department at Niagara. There began his long relationship with the Six Nations of the Grand River tract and with Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Norton left the Indian Department and became Brant’s interpreter, emissary, and, following an Iroquois practice, his adopted “nephew,” receiving the name Dowwisdowwis, or “The Snipe.” In 1799, Brant appointed Norton as his successor, giving him the name, Teyoninhokarawen, or “It keeps the door open,” signifying frankness and an open heart.

 

In 1804, Norton journeyed to London, England, on a secret mission for Brant and behind the back of the Indian Department. Its purpose was to convince the Privy Council to support the Six Nations’ right to their land. The mission lost political momentum, however, when the Indian Department learned of the plan. Norton nevertheless achieved a level of fame and success while in England, lobbying among people of influence on behalf of the Six Nations. Under the auspices of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he translated the Gospel of Saint John into Mohawk, which was the society’s first translation project. Returning to Canada in 1805, he brought 500 copies for circulation as well as financial support for humanitarian projects in the Grand River tract.

 

Joseph Brant died in 1807 and Norton was subsequently appointed his successor. As a leader among the Six Nations of the Grand River he demonstrated strong social consciousness, dedicating years of his life and using his significant linguistic and literary abilities towards issues of land rights, quality of life, and cultural transition. Internal political struggles and conflict with the Indian Department took their toll. In 1809, Norton set out on a 3,000-kilometre journey through Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee to observe the state of First Nations’ displacement after the War of Independence. He returned to Upper Canada in June 1810.

 

During the War of 1812, Norton distinguished himself in his active recruitment of First Nations military forces to the side of the British, and his leadership of warriors into most of the battles on the Niagara Peninsula and at the Detroit front. Midway through the war he married a mixed-blood woman named Catherine, also known as Karighwaycagh. In 1814, he was confirmed in the rank of Captain of the Confederate Indians – the same rank that Joseph Brant had held. In 1816, while in England and Scotland with his wife and son, John, he received a commission as a brevet major in the British army. Here he completed the manuscript of his journal, which can be considered one of this country’s great historical texts. Written from an Aboriginal perspective in precise, dignified, and unadorned prose, it contains an account of his 1809 journey, a rare history of the Iroquois Confederacy, and his first-hand account of the War of 1812. The Journal of Major John Norton was never published in his lifetime.

 

Upon his return to Upper Canada, Norton moved with his family to a large property named Hillside overlooking the Grand River at Sims Lock. He occupied himself with teaching farming to the Mohawk who had lost most of their former hunting territories, and he supported claims of First Nations veterans for losses incurred in the War of 1812. He was also the main translator of the Gospel of Saint Matthew into Mohawk. Local memories of Norton described him as a “good natured man” with a “very good character” who was “a very great warrior and very brave.” In 1823, after fighting a duel over alleged infidelities by his wife, Norton left the country for the new Cherokee lands in Arkansas. It is unknown whether he ever returned to Canada.

 

Théophile Panadis (1889-1966), Odanak, Québec

Théophile Panadis, an Abenaki from Odanak, Quebec, was an exceptional storyteller and lively communicator. He was instrumental in passing on his ancestors’ traditional knowledge both within his community and among anthropologists. Panadis learned and retained his community’s skills and customs during a pivotal time in its history, when the Abenakis’ means of subsistence, based on hunting and an intimate knowledge of nature, was quickly disappearing.

 

Known as “the Storyteller” among his people, Panadis was a man of many talents. A hunting and fishing guide for sportsmen, he was also an artist and the director of the Odanak dance company. His phenomenal memory, which he so generously shared with others, enables us today to better understand his people’s history. For members of the Odanak Band who knew him, Panadis was a “true legend,” a “living history book” and the “greatest authority on our former way of life.” In addition, Gordon Day and Irving Hallowell, the two principal anthropologists who had the opportunity to collaborate with him, could not say enough about this man who was a peerless source for Abenaki traditions, myths, cosmology, ceremonies, language and material culture.

 

Théophile Panadis’ boundless oral knowledge, together with his burning desire to preserve his culture, enabled anthropologists and linguists to understand ancestral hunting grounds and produce an Abenaki-language dictionary. In addition to creating sketches accompanying his explanations, he would make traditional objects while his peers and other specialists looked on, documenting his words and actions in order to preserve this Aboriginal knowledge. Panadis was also a reference for Abenaki history. For example, he recounted the story he learned from his grandmother’s of the 1759 British raid on the Odanak village in the Abenaki language, revealing essential detail not found in either the English or French descriptions of this event.

 

Théophile Panadis also initiated the practice of holding traditional Abenaki dances during social activities or more official assemblies. Because of his commitment, he helped preserve such practices and revive interest among the Abenaki people for their culture, while sharing it with non-Aboriginal people. As an active member of his community, he left behind a profound heritage. Through his work with Hallowell and Day, he was a rich source of information for preserving his people’s history, culture, cosmology and language.

 

Coast Salish Knitters and the Cowichan Sweater, British Columbia

The Coast Salish in Canada comprise a large number of First Nation communities in British Columbia, including the Northern Coast Salish, the Central Coast Salish and the Bella Coola. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Coast Salish turned mountain goat wool, dog hair, and plant fibres into woven textiles of great value among the peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast. In the 1800s, European textiles began to replace Coast Salish weaving, and around 1860 Coast Salish women were introduced to two-needle and multiple-needle knitting by settlers and mission schools. Production of what has come to be known as the Cowichan sweater began in the Cowichan valley, and grew into an industry that served national and international markets. Coast Salish women combined ancient wool-working technologies with European knitting techniques to produce a durable, weatherproof garment of distinctive styling. Sweater production provided a vital source of income for families faced with the challenges of loss of traditional resources and the uncertainty of the post-colonial market economy. Working in a context of reserve life and poverty, the knitters satisfied increasing demands for the Cowichan sweater from around the world. The Cowichan sweater has become an internationally recognized cultural symbol of the Coast Salish and of Canada.

 

The adoption of knitting by the Coast Salish represented a shift in textile work that also preserved traditional elements such as the association between women and fibre, the production of textiles of high quality, and wool preparation techniques. Washing raw wool, carding, and spinning it into thick, single-ply strands were exacting tasks that produced the distinctive wool used to knit the Cowichan sweater. Wool was spun using the large-diameter “Salish spindle,” a hand spindle unique to the Coast Salish and not found elsewhere in North America. With increased demand for sweaters in the late 1940s, Coast Salish men developed two types of innovative treadle-powered spinning machines. Designed with large whorls, these machines were eventually adopted by the wider knitting industry and marketed as “Bulky” or “Indian Head” spinners Until the 1970s, all wool used by the knitters was prepared by them – not only were their sweaters hand knit, but the woollen yarn itself was the result of hands-on craftsmanship.

 

Working year-round and passing on skills and patterns within families and through generations, the knitters have nurtured Coast Salish culture and perpetuated traditions of women’s creation of textiles of beauty and usefulness and the ethic of industriousness and “busy hands.” Sweater knitting provided continuity with traditional fibre preparation and spinning. It linked knitters to ancestral lines of fibre workers and ensured a modicum of income in support of families and Coast Salish cultural life.

 

The result of the knitters’ exacting standards and tremendous effort is a garment that has been worn and collected by thousands of people worldwide. It is included in museum collections nationally and internationally and is among the most readily recognized First Nation products in Canada. An authentic Cowichan sweater is remarkably warm, weatherproof and long lasting, and many were worn for generations.

 

Nlaka’pamux Basket-Making, Pre-Contact to 1970, British Columbia

Nlaka’pamux (pronounced En-la-kap-mah) baskets of coiled cedar root are of exacting, fine workmanship and were decorated using a unique technique known as imbrication which creates patterns of coloured squares in the weave of the basket. The Nlaka’pamux, formerly known as the Thompson Indians, reside in British Columbia’s Interior Plateau, between the Coast Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. Together with the St’at’imc (formerly the Lillooet), the Secwepemc (formerly the Shuswap), and the Okanagan-Colville, they represent the Interior Salish speaking peoples of Canada.

 

In the Plateau region, basket-making is closely tied to the preservation of cultural identity and the women who make these baskets were and are considered master basket makers. Nlaka’pamux basket-making is central to Nlaka’pamux cultural identity, embodying the role of women as culture bearers, as their ethnobotanical and technical knowledge has been transferred through female lines for generations, as well as in the making of baskets using traditional motifs. Basket-making is a tangible expression of Nlaka’pamux culture, and it articulates historical memory.

 

Before European arrival in the Plateau, which began in the first decade of the 1800s, Nlaka’pamux baskets were an important commodity of the active trade networks that linked Interior Salish peoples with one another as well as with the coast and the plains. The production and active marketing of baskets by Nlaka’pamux women provided an economic foothold for families and their communities during a period of tremendous culture loss and change between 1850 and 1930. Beginning in the 1850s, three outside trends stimulated demand for the basket makers’ products. The greatest of these was a mania for collecting Aboriginal basketry among middle class and wealthy urbanites in North America that continued until the 1930s. Another source of demand came from museums in the 1890s that were accumulating Aboriginal material culture for ethnographic purposes. A widespread retail demand from urban households and agricultural industries also spurred Nlaka’pamux basket-making.

 

Until the 1930s, Nlaka’pamux women produced vast quantities of basketwares following techniques, forms, and decorative styles that predated European arrival. Collectors recognised that these coiled and imbricated baskets were unique among Aboriginal basketry in Canada. The tradition of basket-making survived because basket makers also adapted their craft to new forms. Non-traditional items such as basketry tea trays and letter holders were in great demand and produced in large numbers. Basket-making declined between the Great Depression and the end of the Second World War. By the 1950s, knowledge of basket-making among the Nlaka’pamux was on the verge of being lost altogether. An appreciation for Aboriginal crafted arts returned by this time however, and by the 1970s, newly crafted Nlaka’pamux baskets were recognized as art of the highest calibre.

 

The Displacement of the Anishinaabeg of Southern Georgian Bay, Coldwater, Ontario

The years following the end of the War of 1812 marked a profound change in the lives of the Anishinaabeg of Southern Georgian Bay. Before, and during the war, the Anishinaabe nations and the British Crown had been military allies. Now their relationship began to change. Movements of Loyalists into Upper Canada and subsequent waves of European settlers in the early decades of the 19th century resulted in land surrenders, purchases and treaties with the Aboriginal inhabitants of the colony, limiting their hunting territory and exposing them to pressures from disease, alcohol and social upheaval.

 

Encouraged by the success of two earlier religious settlements at the Credit River and Grape Island, the Indian Department decided in 1829 to set up and fund the largest project yet, a settlement for about 500 Chippewa, Potawotomi and Odawa people between the Lake Simcoe Narrows and Coldwater in order to make them into self-reliant farmers and artisans. A wave of Methodist evangelization was taking place at this time and it directly inspired the model villages that would be established. By 1828, the three Anishinaabe chiefs, John Assance (II), William Yellowhead (Musquakie) and Joseph Snake had all converted to Christianity and the Coldwater Settlement was underway. Using a combination of government and band funds, 9800 acres in a narrow 14 mile-long strip of land along an old portage route was set aside.

 

However, the settlement at Coldwater did not prosper, despite the efforts of chiefs Assance, Yellowhead and Snake, who together fought actively for more resources and less interference in the settlement. The government gradually reduced its monetary support or took needed funds from treaty money owed to the bands; profits from milling were used for other purposes by the Anishinaabeg; and many did not live in the settlement year-round, preferring traditional hunting and fishing to farming. A change in administration brought in new Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head who was not supportive of the model village concept. By 1836, the Anishinaabeg sold the Coldwater land back to the government. Interrupted by the Rebellions of 1837-38, they did not settle in their new communities until around 1840.

 

The abandonment of the Coldwater Settlement in 1840 marked the start of the next stage in the displacement of the Anishinaabeg, in which new settlements were founded at Rama on the east side of Lake Couchiching, on Beausoleil Island, and on Georgina and Snake islands in Lake Simcoe.

 

Abenaki Basket-Making Industry, 1870-1920, Québec

Between 1870 and 1920, the basket-making industry became the main source of income for the Abenakis, a First Nation from the St. Lawrence valley. This industry, which offset the loss of hunting grounds, ensured the survival of the Odanak and Wôlinak Abenakis, supported their economic development and brought them prosperity. The lucrative basket trade sparked the expansion of Abenaki entrepreneurship, especially family businesses that were very profitable. The expertise of Abenaki basket-makers was safeguarded and has been passed on, even to this day, as a distinctive part of the Abenaki culture. Basket-making, a traditional art, has become a symbol of Abenaki culture.

 

Around 1850, colonization and the development of the forest industry spelled the end of hunting and its related activities as a way of life. The Abenakis therefore turned towards the production of craft products, especially baskets woven with sweet grass, and this became their main means of livelihood. Beginning in the 1870s, the Abenaki economy underwent an extensive transformation when the trade of baskets made of ash splints expanded quickly. Basket-making grew as an industry among the Abenaki: it became their only livelihood. Abenaki families would travel to Ontario and the United States every summer to sell the ash splint and sweet grass baskets they had made over the winter to tourists. This very lucrative activity has significant economic benefits for the Abenaki villages of Odanak and Wôlinak. In fact, trade of these high-quality baskets became so profitable that some families hired other Abenakis and French Canadians to help them.

 

However, beginning in the 20th century, the Abenaki basket-making industry faced a number of threats: the American government imposed customs duties in 1898, the price of sweet grass increased, French Canadians created competition, and merchants gained economic control over Abenaki craftspeople. All these factors reduced their profits considerably, and the Abenakis had a great deal of difficulty surviving on basket production alone.

 

Finally, the First World War decreased the demand for baskets and entire families left the village of Odanak to try to find another livelihood. In addition, young people were not encouraged to learn the craft, as they could no longer earn a decent income from it. However, Abenaki ash splint and sweet grass basket-making, an industry that flourished between 1870 and 1920, has survived. Today, it is one of the main crafts and traditional activities of the Abenakis, who are still renowned for this original art.

 

Moravian Missions and the Inuit in Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador

The Moravian missionaries who first came to Labrador in the late 18th century brought with them a Protestant gospel based upon strong communal religious relationships and worship through prayer, Bible study and music. The first successful mission in Labrador began in Nain in 1771 and today, over 230 years later, the majority of people in northern Labrador continue to practice the Moravian faith. The Labrador congregations form part of the worldwide Moravian Unity, or Unitas Fratrum. Together, Moravians and Inuit came to engage in a constructive integration of life and culture, and the Moravian faith has remained an important dimension of the Labrador Inuit identity.

 

Moravians recognized the importance of preserving cultural traits such as language, hunting, fishing and gathering practices, traditional foods and traditional technical knowledge (although spiritual battles were fought against polygamy, feuding and pantheistic beliefs). For their part, the Inuit of Labrador embraced music, literacy and other introductions in ways that uniquely expressed their culture. The Moravians supported universal education for boys and girls and the first schools in Labrador began in 1780 at Nain and Okak, and in 1783 at Hopedale. All lessons were taught in Labrador Inuktitut (English and basic German were added in later years). The missionaries developed an Inuktitut orthography and printed reading material as well as detailed Inuktitut grammars and dictionaries. Inuit teachers were trained and employed alongside European missionaries, such as Nathanial Illiniartitsijok, who was schoolmaster in Nain for 53 years, and his wife Frederika, who taught for 30 years.

 

Until the 1950s, when education came under provincial jurisdiction and instruction in Inuktitut was discontinued, visitors to Labrador noted that Inuit were among the best educated people in eastern Canada. Also noted was the unique musical culture of Inuit communities with their trained choral voices and skilled violinists, organists, and brass players. Although there was loss of traditional Inuit music, scholars have noted that the Inuit voice asserted itself in new forms. The first of many accomplished Inuit choirs was formed in 1792.

 

Missionaries also introduced new skills needed to participate in a changing world. Inuit were trained in carpentry, gardening, the fishery and boat making, among others. In combination with their education, these skills aided the communities along the northern coast as they were drawn into the colonial economy. For their part, many missionaries were trained natural scientists who mapped the northern coast and created vast scientific and historical records of Labrador. Today, these data are highly valued because for Inuit they represent knowledge about their forebears and their traditional environment.

 

Aboriginal Military Service in First World War

Between 1914 and 1918, Aboriginal men from all regions of Canada and the Dominion of Newfoundland fought with the Canadian military in the First World War. These men volunteered to serve, even though for many this meant fighting for a government that considered them “wards” of the state and denied their right to vote. Serving side-by-side with other Canadian men, Aboriginal soldiers gained acceptance and respect at levels that contradicted their treatment and status back home, and challenged the racist sentiment that one could not be both Aboriginal and a responsible citizen. At war’s end, Aboriginal veterans and members of Aboriginal communities were inspired to improve the status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This was the active force behind the first pan-Canadian Aboriginal organization, the League of Indians of Canada, which gave a national voice to Aboriginal grievances and set the stage for future activism in the fight for Aboriginal rights.

 

When war broke out, Aboriginal men were among the first to enlist for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and were part of the first contingent of Canadians to be sent overseas. During the war, the number of Aboriginal men that volunteered left some reserves nearly depleted of young men. Aboriginal women were also active participants, and raised money, formed committees, and sent comforts from home to the troops at the front. While many Aboriginal men were eager to enlist, not all shared this enthusiasm and some Aboriginal communities discouraged their young men from signing up.

 

Once overseas, Aboriginal men served throughout the army in the infantry, railway troops, forestry, pioneer, and labour battalions, the veterinary corps, and even the Royal Flying Corps. Some Aboriginal men were praised for their skills as snipers and scouts, using abilities they had acquired through their civilian roles as hunters and trappers, and Aboriginal men won medals for bravery and honour throughout the CEF. More than 300 Aboriginal men were killed at war, and many others were wounded or died upon their return.

 

Many Aboriginal veterans felt that little distinction existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal soldiers on the front. Upon their demobilization, however, veterans returned to the same discriminatory environment that had existed prior to the war, and many felt that their status in society did not reflect their wartime achievement and sacrifice. Military service had provided an opportunity for Aboriginal soldiers from different parts of the country to meet and exchange ideas, and this created a sense of shared experience. The League of Indians of Canada was founded in 1919 by a veteran of the war and attracted members from across Canada to lobby for Aboriginal rights until its demise in the 1920s.

 

The Distribution of King’s Presents, 17th-19th Centuries

The Distribution of the King’s Presents was a tradition in which the King (or Queen) gave annual presents to the First Nations peoples of North America. The French kings formalized the practice in the late 17th century, and it was continued by the English monarchy from 1763 until 1858. By following the Aboriginal tradition of building relationships by giving presents, first the French and later the British were able to forge and maintain alliances with Aboriginal peoples. Only by respecting this tradition based on giving could the colonial authorities exert influence with the First Nations. For the First Nations, the King’s Presents were symbols of the political, economic, and military collaboration between themselves and the Europeans, and represented a formal relationship with the Crowns of France and Britain that must be honoured anew each year. The act of giving represented not only a practice intended to maintain and renew the alliances between independent entities, but also the means to secure military allies during the colonizers’ struggles for control of the continent.

 

The exchange of gifts was a fundamental part of Aboriginal culture, both among individuals and between nations. Gift-giving was used to mark important occasions and to seal agreements. Regular gift-giving served as a reminder of alliances between nations, and was essential in maintaining good relations. On their arrival in North America, the French adopted the Aboriginal gift-giving tradition to acknowledge the hospitality of First Nations peoples and establish a network of alliances. The annual giving of presents to First Nations peoples was formalized by Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century and continued until the British Conquest in 1760. Although it required ever-increasing costs to maintain alliances with First Nations, the gift-giving system enabled the French to establish posts, forts and villages and engage in the fur trade throughout North America.

 

After 1760, the British adopted the French practice of annual King’s presents. Gifts consisted of fabrics, clothing, tools, food, tobacco, weapons and ornaments. The great expense of the system was considered worthwhile to ensure the military and political support of First Nations peoples. The American Revolution and the revolts in Upper and Lower Canada confirmed the importance of First Nations peoples as allies of the British colonial empire. In 1796 the Colonial Office in London recognized the annual presents as a right earned in the context of a military alliance. First Nations peoples viewed the King’s presents as a ‘sacred promise’ made by the King for their services as allies in war.

 

The long-standing system of King’s presents was finally abolished in 1858.

 

Source: Parks Canada



Tags: Canada  history  

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