Historical Timeline Project

Historical Timeline Project

We are prototyping, here, an historical timeline from an Indigenous perspective.

Historical Timeline: An Overview of Eras

In order to facilitate various levels of detail when presenting the timeline, we are going to begin with a simple storyline of four eras which builds on the four stages developed by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Our four eras or chapters will be represented and organized as follows:

  1. Turtle Island
  2. Nation-to-Nation
  3. Colonialism
  4. Reconciliation

We will summarize each briefly here and then develop more detailed versions of each. However, at each stage of developing the details of our story, we will try to remain aware of the overarching narrative arc of the four eras.

1. Turtle Island

The era we are calling Turtle Island corresponds to RCAP's Stage 1: Separate Worlds. It is the pre-1500, pre-contact era before Europeans arrived in North America, when the Americas were populated by Aboriginal societies.

Although this is a world which archaeology and historical geography attempt to explore, from an Indigenous perspective it is the era which reaches back to time immemorial. So, for our part, we will attempt to approach this era through the lens of traditional stories, legends and ceremonies and with a view to constructing a description of Aboriginal societies, prior to European influences, from an Indigenous perspective.

However, if we keep in mind how Europeans are later going to characterize North America as terra nullius (empty land), it will be very important to also demonstrate such mischaracterizations of what was in fact the case and also how Indigenous Peoples self-characterized in this period. And equally important, we need to address how those mischaracterizations served social, economic and political purposes when they emerged.

2. Nation-to-Nation

The era we are calling Nation-to-Nation corresponds to RCAP's Stage 2: Nation-to-Nation Relations. It is the era of social, cultural, economic and political interpenetration. It is the era of the fur trade, of intermarriage, of alliances, and of treaties.

This is truly the founding era of what will become Canada. It is also the era of imperial European conflict. Out of this period, will emerge competing creation stories which Canada as a country is still negotiating.

We will be characterizing this founding era as The Fur Trade Society in order to grasp the coherent social, cultural, economic and political interconnections which emerge from these interactions.

When this era comes to a close can easily be debated. There is typically no single year or event which closes an era. However, the ending of the War of 1812, in 1815, or perhaps the merger of the Northwest Company and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, could easily function as key transitional events. We will explore both as closing events.

3. Colonialism

The era we are calling Colonialism corresponds to RCAP's Stage 3: Respect Gives Way to Domination. This era will also be described as the coming into being of the regime of the Indian Act which will include The Gradual Civilization Act, 1857, Residential Schools, the reserve system, the Sixties Scoop and various other acts and events which characterize a world of assimilation, domination and colonialism, in general.

It is an era marked by Confederation, rebellions, suppression and repression, but which will, ultimately, lead to a resurgence of Indigenous Peoples.

Many of the key features of this era are still with us, and, as such, it becomes clear that our eras are not nicely and neatly demarcated in time, but rather are best understood as overlapping themes, institutions, attitudes and events, which form coherent collective projects and choices societies have made in the past in the land now called Canada, which we live with in the present, and negotiate with into the future.

4. Reconciliation

The era we are calling Reconciliation corresponds to RCAP's Stage 4: Renewal and Renegotiation.

Again it is not a case of a single event that demarcates the beginning of the era of Reconciliation, although the backlash against the 1969 White Paper of assimilation is often cited as an important contributor, as noted by RCAP.

Along with various court decisions, various commisions like RCAP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as, a resurgence in population growth among Aboriginal Peoples, an era of renewal, reconciliation and renegotiation has many important elements to consider.

A number of key elements considered by RCAP, for example, are: self-government, land claims and treaties, sharing and economic development, environmental stewardship, healing, housing, education, culture and languages.

Exploring Our Timeline Eras

From here we will attempt to dig a little deeper into each era to get a better sense of what characterized them.

  1. Turtle Island
  2. Nation-to-Nation
  3. Colonialism
  4. Reconciliation

As we proceed, we will also develop an overarching narrative timeline which attempts to provide an overview of the whole story.

This prototype is not meant to be a standalone resource but rather a vehicle for exploring the world of resources available. As a result, each topic will include a Timeline Resources section to help readers access additional information (ex., see below).


Timeline Resources