First Nations A First Nation is a Native group in which the members share a common culture and history, and wish to be treated as a distinct group on this basis. For legal purposes, the federal government has divided Native peoples into three groups: 1. Indian 2. Inuit 3. Métis Throughout Canadian History, Native peoples have signed treaties with European countries that were based on peace and friendship. However, this peaceful way of dealing with each other changed when more and more Europeans arrived. It was not long after that the British government wanted to obtain control of the land used by the Native groups. In return for the land, the Native people were offered payment and reserves. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was created to ensure fairness to the Native groups when signing treaties. The following principles were to be followed: Land ownership right of the First Nations must be respected. If a group of First Nations did choose to give up their land, then they shall receive fair payment for it. (however, this was often not the case) This should have been a useful beginning because the intention of the proclamation was to respect the rights of the Native population. Negotiations should have occurred in a spirit of mutual respect between equals. The Indian Act of 1876 was an act of Canadian government that constituted that the government would be the ones signing the treaties with Native groups. The goal was the same, however, so that the Native groups would give up their claim to the lands they occupied, forever. They were also persuaded to move to reserves. Native groups were to receive cash, yearly payments to reserve members and goods. There was also a promise made of continuing fishing and hunting rights. **Throughout this treaty signing process, Native people have given up almost half of Canada’s land area and unfortunately, many of the treaties have proved to be unfair. The treaties have failed the Native people for 2 important reasons; 1. enormous loss of land where the Native peoples maintained their traditional way of life 2. the Native people were given no right to govern themselves. The traditional lifestyle of the First Nations was affected by: 1. Increased Population: The First Nation’s lifestyle of hunting, fishing and agriculture, which required a great deal of land, was affected by the loss of land due to an increase in the population. The newcomers used and changed the land so much that traditional methods could not be used to provide enough food for the indigenous population. 2. Moving to Reserves: Many of the reserves that the First Nations moved to lacked fertile land, minerals, trees, fish and wild animals. This made it difficult for the First Nations to make their living from the land. This, in turn, has created many social and health problems as many Native people were forced to accept welfare, or relocate to cities in search of employment. 3. The Use of Residential Schools: Aboriginal children were sent to live and learn in special schools in the larger towns. They were taught the language and culture of mainstream Canadian society. The children were not allowed to speak their own languages or practice their own cultural traditions. 4. Fishing and Hunting Laws: Provincial and federal governments have made laws to protect the populations of wildlife. This affects the Native populations’ traditional way of life. 5. Resource and Development Projects: The economic base of the Native peoples has been damaged due to these large resource development projects (Bennett Dam in BC.) that they were never consulted with. The effects of these projects on the environment in which the Native peoples live have restricted their abilities to trap, hunt, or otherwise live a traditional lifestyle.