Chapter 2 – The Impact of Colonial History on Indigenous Peoples


Medicine Wheel Direction – East (Yellow) – New Beginnings, New Life

As stated in the previous chapter, according to Nabigon (2006), waabanong (the east) represents new beginnings, new life, vision, birth, food and spring. The teachings associated with this direction are also about feelings. On the positive side of the medicine wheel are good feelings and on the negative side of the medicine wheel, the teachings are related to feeling inferior. The teachings from this direction help us to know and understand each other.

Whether someone comes from the perspective of an Indigenous or non-Indigenous person, it is important to understand the impacts of colonial history. For the Indigenous person, learning about colonial history creates feelings of hurt, anger and possibly shame. For the non-Indigenous person, learning about this history can lead to feelings of remorse and guilt. Some people, whether Indigenous or not, might say that ‘this was a thing of the past’ and prefer to forget about this colonial history.

The Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommend that Canadians move towards reconciliation of this colonial history. This involves learning about this colonial history, the true history, not the history that has been presented in history books. It is about ‘re-righting’ the history from an Indigenous perspective. It is about creating a new beginning in Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations and ‘re-storying’ that colonial history as a step towards reconciliation.

This chapter will look at colonial history including the treaty making era, more specifically the Robinson-Huron Treaty area, the area in which Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and Whitefish River First Nation are situated. We will also examine the impacts of the Indian Act, the residential schools and the child welfare system on Indigenous peoples.

Learning Outcomes

When you have worked through the material in this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

  • Define pre-confederation history.
  • Outline local treaties and where they stand today.
  • Describe the residential school system.
  • Based on the stories of the local residential school, describe the impact of these institutions historically and today.
  • Identify other significant events that have shaped the experiences of Indigenous peoples in this area.


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