Canadian History in the Twentieth Century

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Prior Knowledge Required

  • Grade 9 Geography unit on Aboriginal Peoples

  • Students have knowledge of the history of various Aboriginal peoples and their culture from Grade 7 History and Grade 9 Geography.

  • Students have knowledge of doing an Internet search.

Teaching/Learning Strategies

1. Introduce this activity by reviewing the role played by Elijah Harper in defeating the Meech lake Accord. Why did Harper reject Meech Lake? What rights have Aboriginal peoples felt they have lost or had restricted over the course of this century? Students review the history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations throughout this century in their textbooks. Students complete a chart with titles time period, historical context, and event. Take this up in class and make a collective list of restrictions placed on Aboriginal peoples this century. These include immigration out west, reservations, residential schools, and land claims. The class may be divided into groups who are given a specific section of the textbook to locate the information. The groups can be involved in a jigsaw activity where students share their information and develop a collective answer to the focus question.

2. The teacher may ask students why Catholics should take a particular interest in the issues facing Aboriginal peoples. The teacher may read some Aboriginal literature and elicit from students the qualities or values of the Aboriginal peoples illustrated in these stories. These include spiritual values of Aboriginals such as respect for nature, belief in a Supreme Being, environmental concerns, and the concept of stewardship of the land. Students read one of the following selections to compare the Aboriginal values with Catholic values: Catholic Catechism 341 (beauty of creation and creator), 2415 (respect for creation-animal and non animate objects), 339 (goodness of everything), as well as Genesis 1 (Creation).

3. In order to empathize with the treatment faced by some Aboriginal peoples, students are told that in order to improve the quality of education the school board has decided to implement the following changes: All students will wear a black gown, similar to a priest’s cassock; Since the school is now receiving government funds, all crosses will be removed from the school; To improve the oral language skills of students, contractions will no longer be tolerated in answering or asking questions; All jewelry, earrings or other adornments may not be worn; Since Canada is a member of the North American Free Trade Zone and should be familiar with our trading partners’ history, American history will be compulsory. Students respond to these changes and clearly elucidate their objections. The teacher lists these on the board and informs students that this is a false story. The teacher asks the students to place this in the context by asking how this is similar to situations faced by Aboriginal people who were forced to attend residential schools. By reviewing past units, students list other injustices committed against Aboriginal people (reservations, loss of hunting and fishing rights, and loss of legal rights).

4. Students examine how Aboriginal groups have organized themselves in response to a growing demand for a reversal of the injustices. Students research local Aboriginal Groups and determine what type of organization exists with its rights and responsibilities. The purpose of the research is to locate local Aboriginal organizations and determine their present situation regarding any legal claims they may have with the various levels of government or if any agreements have been reached with governments. Students expand their research to focus on the Assembly of First Nations. They note the purpose of the Assembly and any recent actions it has taken in defence of Aboriginal rights. The Internet is a good source for Aboriginal web sites that list and describe many native organizations. Students demonstrate their understanding of Aboriginal values and demands by designing a crest for an Aboriginal organization that promotes Aboriginal values.

5. Students are given an opportunity to experience the difficulty that exists in concluding fair and equitable resolutions to various disputes involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Students, in groups, are given a scenario of a dispute. They analyse the positions of each side and suggest a possible solution. Once the group presents its solution, the real result is presented for comparison purposes. Students generate a list of problem-solving strategies that they have effectively employed. The focus of the agreement is equity and justice in the eyes of all participants.

Example (once this is reviewed, have the students work with the two subsequent issues listed):

Fishing Rights-Supreme Court of Canada rules that Mi’kmaq Natives are allowed to catch fish for their livelihood as agreed to in a 1760 treaty between the British and Aboriginal Peoples. These people have decided to fish out of season and claim this is their only way to earn a living and get off welfare. Non-Aboriginal fishers demand that the Aboriginals not fish in off seasons and have a limit placed on how much they can catch. What is the solution? The result of this dispute was vandalism against Aboriginal traps and arson.

Nisga Land Claims-


6. As a conclusion, students express their opinion on the general conditions faced by Aboriginal groups and suggest possible government action by writing a letter to their MP. How could Catholic teachings provide a foundation for a possible solution? The letter should indicate the issues students have studied and their concern that violence has occurred in a number of these disputes. They suggest general guidelines that could be followed in trying to resolve these disagreements.

Assessment/Evaluation Techniques

  • formative assessments of Internet search and Aboriginal organization crest

  • summative evaluation of the letter to the local MP

  • teacher observational assessment

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