Questions to ask yourself
What is a just society?
What you will be able to do
Identify when Indigenous peoples received the right to vote in Canada.
Describe residential schools and reserve life in Quebec.
Explain the changes in land and ancestral rights.
Of Power and Lands and Justice
Political representation, or the activity of giving citizens a say in governmental decisions, has a long and complicated history in Canada, especially as concerned groups like Women and Indigenous peoples. From very early on in the French colonial period, the right to own property and other legal or otherwise defendable rights to control land were inextricably tied to one’s ability to influence those in power and to be part of the decision-making process. So it seems fitting, one could say, to examine the history of Indigenous peoples’ right to vote while examining the evolution of land rights, and also while reflecting on the forced removal of children from those lands. What kind of situation would allow a democratically elected government the power to make policy that essentially tried to eradicate cultures, languages, nations and peoples? What makes the measure of a just or unjust society? And where do we all stand now?
Kent Monkman, The Scream, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 84” x 126”, Collection of the Denver Art Museum, Image courtesy of the artist
Engage: Image Discussion around Power and Rights
View the Kent Monkman painting entitled "The Scream". First, discuss what you think is happening in the picture. How does it make you feel?
What social groups are portrayed? Which of these groups have power and which groups do not?
Which groups portrayed in the picture could be considered "part of the government?" Today? In the past?
Voting rights at various times in our history
Participation in a democratic system was not unknown to Indigenous peoples. In fact, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Five Nations, as well as the Huron Confederacy, sent representatives to participate in larger councils, which would then pass decisions based on consensus, and where final decisions that impacted the whole territory could be made through a balance of opinion, a vote of sorts. But once Indigenous peoples became part of French or English-controlled territories, the force of those early rights to self-determination waned.
You might be surprised at when the earliest peoples could vote, and how voting rights changed throughout our history. View the video at right, watching for which groups were politically influential and when, and how voting as a solution for social and political change varied as different groups lost then regained the right to have a say in government.
Explore: Voting Rights History of Indigenous Peoples
Place in Time Voting Rights events:
Draw up a timeline of significant moments concerning the vote in general and Indigenous voting turning points.
Juxtapose a top layer listing voting rights events and various legal changes won by non-Indigenous groups, with another timeline layer that traces Indigenous voting rights changes over time.
Time permitting, visit our Women's Suffrage section on this site here.
Finally, use the documents available in our main document collection on Indigenous Peoples and voting rights here, to dig deeper into key events where necessary. Follow document and web site links for more information. Think critically about all sources.
Available below, this collection of curated resources is available for student or teacher use, and will eventually be used to further construct the student content and activities on this page.