Confederation took place on July 1, 1867, and since then Canada’s Indigenous people have faced and overcome a multitude of hardships, including the creation of  residential schools which saw the federal government tear children away from their families. Today, Canadians are still coming to grips with how Indigenous people have been treated in the past 150 years. Below is a timeline of events that have impacted both Canada and Indigenous people.


1867: Canadian Confederation took place on July 1.

The British North America Act gives the federal government responsibility for Indigenous and their land.

1876: The Indian Act is passed: Any remaining self-governed natives and made them responsibility of the federal government.

1877: Treaty 7: Signed between the Canadian government and five First Nations —   the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee). Leading up to the treaty was a series of negotiations, which involved cultural and linguistic barriers.

1870s: The first residential schools open.

1884: Potlatches banned: The federal government found that the First Nations gift-giving feast was wasteful and anti-Christian.

1885: The Northwest Rebellion: Uprising by the Métis people of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel. The uprising was short and unsuccessful.

1914-1918: The First World War: Over 4,000 Indigenous people served in the First World War for Canada. Recruits joined for a number of reasons, including employment and adventure.

1939-1945: The Second World War: At least 3,000 Indigenous peoples — including more than 70 women — enlisted to fight in the war. This is an estimate by Veterans Affairs Canada and it is speculated that the number could be much higher.

1958: James Gladstone became the first Indigenous person appointed to the Senate. Gladstone was an advocate for changes to the Indian Act. He became a senator before Indigenous people could even vote in federal elections.

1960: Indigenous people are finally given the right to vote in federal elections. First Nations people had the right to vote since Confederation but only if they revoked their treaty rights and Indian status. Inuit had been able to vote since 1950.

1968: Len Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, becomes the first First Nations person to be elected as a Member of Parliament.The Liberal MP also became the first Indigenous person appointed to cabinet when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Marchand the Minister of Small Business in 1976.

1969: The White Paper: Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government wanted to repeal the Indian Act. It proposed that Indian affairs become the responsibility of provincial governments. It was rejected by many First Nations people in 1971  because they were not consulted about the proposed changes.

1985: Indian Act changes: Extends Indian status to Métis and enfranchised Aboriginals.

1988: Ethel Dorothy Blondin-Andrew is the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Commons. A Dene, Liberal MP from the Northwest Territories, Blondin-Andrew became the first Aboriginal woman named to the Privy Council and cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of State for Training and Youth in 1993.

1990: The Oka Crisis: Mohawk protesters oppose a golf course on native burial grounds near the Quebec town of Oka (near Montréal). They erected barricades and are confronted first by provincial police and eventually the Canadian Army. The standoff lasted 78 days, capturing the attention of Canadians across the country while also highlighting many Indigenous issues.

1996: The remaining residential schools close. The last residential school was in Saskatchewan. The federal government recognized that there were over 130 federally-supported residential schools.

2008: Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers a formal apology for the treatment of Indigenous people in residential schools.

2011: Attawapiskat crisis: A winter housing crisis in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat sparks conversation about housing conditions for First Nations people.

2012: Harper holds a summit meeting with more than 100 First Nations chiefs. One of the main focuses of the summit was to create dialogue about funding for First Nations.

2015: A record 10 Indigenous MPs are elected to sit in the House of Commons.

2017: Treaty 7 chiefs will have the honour of leading the Calgary Stampede parade. The Stampede has a history of including Indigenous people in its annual summer celebration.

Sources: The Toronto Star, The Canadian Encyclopedia, CBC Archives, Veterans Affairs Canada, Global News, Huffington Post, The Calgary Herald, TIME

IndigenousTimeline copyHere is the timeline that is available on page 17 of our July/August 2017 print edition. You can read it by clicking the photo above. Graphic by Nathan Woolridge

Editor: Ian Tennant |

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