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Good Intentions…?

An essay using the Canada in the Making site

Student Guide

It's said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Was this the case with the treaties made between European colonial administrations and the Canadian government when dealing with Aboriginal peoples? This essay will require you to examine the motives behind treaty documents and government acts and to examine the documents in order to determine whether government or colonial negotiators lived up to the promises they mouthed.

Some have suggested that Europeans wanted only to seek a peaceful coexistence with Aboriginal peoples; others have argued that Europeans wanted only one thing - space to grow, at any cost. This is an essay requiring that you:

  • Describe the historical events surrounding a treaty,

  • Decide what the motives were behind the treaty, and

  • Make an argument on whether or not the treaty accomplished what it was intended to accomplish.

You should write the essay from a particular perspective. For example:

  • Colonial officials/the Canadian government bargained from a position of strength, and had no intention of honouring its promises in the long run. The Aboriginal nations involved had little choice but to accept.

  • At the time the treaty was negotiated, Europeans had only a weak foothold on the continent, and negotiated in the hopes of finding peace/gaining allies. The Aboriginal nations involved hoped to use a more friendly European power to stave off a less friendly on. Both intended to honour the treaty.

You may find it useful to conduct your research in groups.

Choosing a Document

Select a significant treaty or government act from one of the following sections of the site:

1. 1499-1779: From First Contact to the Peace and Friendship Treaties
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals2_e.html
2. 1763-1791:The Royal Proclamation, 1763, and Québec Act, 1774
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals3_e.html
3. 1764-1836: Pre-Confederation Treaties I
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals4_e.html
4. 1811-1867: Pre-Confederation Treaties II
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals5_e.html
5. 1867-1870: The British North America Act, 1867, and Sale of Selkirk Treaty Lands
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals6_e.html
6. The First Five Numbered Treaties
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals7_e.html
7. The Indian Act, 1876
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals8_e.html
8. Numbered Treaties Six and Seven
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals8_e.html
9. Last of the Numbered Treaties
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals10_e.html
10. The Williams Treaties and Land Transfer Agreements
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginal11_e.html
11. The Aboriginal Rights Movement
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals12_e.html
12. Constitutional Reforms and Crises
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/aboriginals/aboriginals13_e.html

Try to avoid treaties which were minor - for example, one settled between a private person and a band and intended to obtain land for a building.

Essay Requirements

The paper should be _____________ words long. It should contain:

  • A title page with the title, your name, the course name, your teacher's name and the date submitted.

  • A clear introduction with a thesis statement.

  • Proper citation (footnotes/endnotes or APA/MLA style, as determined by your teacher).

  • A bibliography.

Make an effort to use primary sources to support your arguments. These can be found on the Canada in the Making Web site.

Note on Sources

Primary sources
Primary sources represent the most authentic resources that historians can draw upon. The documents that you will be using below may be digitized, but are still considered primary sources. Try to use the sources available on the "Canada's Constitutional History" portion of the Canada in the Making Web site to strengthen your arguments.

For tips on how to use primary sources, go to the "Using Primary Sources in Your Work" page.
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/eco/english/lessonp.html

Secondary sources
Secondary sources are works that interpret or analyze an historical event or phenomenon. Generally the author is at least one step removed from the event. Although not as authentic as primary sources, secondary sources are still valuable.

Possible Sources of Information Online

Note: It is important to choose sources that are produced by reputable institutions or individuals. Such information is more likely to give you a balanced, neutral view and be prepared or reviewed by experts.

Numbered Treaties

Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution1_e.html


Canada in the Making: Aboriginals: Treaties and Relations
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution1_e.html

The Canadian Encyclopedia Online
URL: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com

Natural Resources Canada: The Atlas of Canada
URL: http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps/historical/indiantreaties/historicaltreaties

Indian and Northern Affairs: The Historic Treaty Information site
URL: http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/pr/trts/hti/site/maindex_e.html

National Archives of Canada: Pride and Dignity
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/0501_f.html (French)
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/0501_e.html (English)

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