Historical Timeline

Indigenous people have been negotiating treaties, trade, travel, technological advances, war, intermarriage, and sustainable harvesting, hunting, and fishing for over 13000 years in Canada.


Doctrine of Discovery which is a document that ensures Spain’s exclusive rights to lands discovers by Columbus, all other nations were forbidden to approach the land without a license.

1536 – 1632 “Discovery of North America”

Basque whalers are the first Europeans to regularly visit North America, landing in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador.


The Hudson’s Bay Company establishes a fur-trading post called Moose Fort.


The Indian Department was created as attempt to mitigate concerns of colonial fraud and abuse against First Nations because of the competition for controlling the land between the French and British.


Royal Proclamation also known as “Indian Magna Carta” or “Indian Bill of Rights” stated that Indigenous people reserved all lands not ceded by or purchased from them.


War of 1812 was a military conflict between Great Britain and the United States. Canada being under British rule sided with Britain and this war contributed to a sense of Canada’s national identity. First Nations fought alongside the British.


Egerton Ryerson recommends and requests the superintendent general of Indian Affairs educate native children with a focus on religious and domestic instruction with agricultural training. This would become the first model for residential schools.


Douglas Treaties – 159 identical marks made for the Indigenous peoples instead of signatures, indigenous people understood this to be a peace treaty not a purchase agreement as this was not translated into Indigenous languages. The driving force of the Douglas Treaty was to gain control of Indigenous peoples land.


The British North America Act – Indians under federal governments control.

1869 – 1870

Red River Rebellion led by Louis Riel. Many Metis feared for their culture and land rights under Canadian government control. This rebellion led to provisions made to negotiate terms to enter Confederation.


BC becomes part of Canada; 90% Indigenous population. The first five numbered treaties are signed, focusing on land in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.


Indian Act is created. This is a set of rules and regulations imposed on First Nations that give the federal government power to administer Indian Status, local First Nations government and management of respect land and monies. The sole purpose was to eliminate and eradicate First Nations Culture. The Indian Act has been revised to implement stricter rules over time, between 1951 – 1985 when changes were being made to remove discriminatory sections. The Indian Act is still in place today. Most of the rules and regulations go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


The Potlatch Ban is added to the Indian Act to further extinguish any First Nations culture and foundation.


Red River Rebellion and Northwest Resistance.

1914 – 1917

Indigenous men enlist in the army to serve in World War I. Some are conscripted. When they return from the war, Status Indian Veterans are not afforded the same privileges as non-Indigenous Veterans.


Chief Dan Cranmer of the Namgis people hosts a potlatch in Mimkumlis, Village Island; the Indian Agent finds out alerts the police which resulted in 45 people being arrested. Regalia, masks, and other ceremonial items are seized to prevent them from potlatching again. 22 of those arrested go to Okalla prison.


Indigenous population in BC is 22,605.


The Potlatch Ban is removed from the Indian Act. This ban is lifted passively which means they lifted the ban and did not inform the First Nations.


Chief Mungo Martin builds a bighouse (named Wawaditla) in Victoria and hosts the first legal potlatch in 67 years.


Chief Andy Frank builds a bighouse (named Kumugwe) on the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay, and hosts a potlatch.


Status Indian men and women are given the right to vote in federal elections.


The Gwa’sala and Naxwaxda’xw peoples are promised better housing, a school, a community hall, a mooring dock, and easy access to services IF they relocate their villages to a reserve near Port Hardy. The agree after 10 years of pressure, and relocate to Tsulquate where they are met with 3 incomplete homes for their entire village. When members tried to return home to gather their belongings (as they were promised they could) they returned to villages that were burnt to the ground by the military.


The Supreme Court rules that Aboriginal Title to land exists, citing the Royal Proclamation of 1763.


The bighouse named Kumugwe is relocated to the K’omoks First Nation on land that was once Andy Frank’s garden.


Bill C-31 – a change to the Indian Act so Status Indian women who married non-Aboriginal men regained their Status and that of their children. Those who lost their status for marrying non-Aboriginal men could get their treaty rights but not necessarily their band membership rights creating further division adding codes 6 (1) a – 6(1)f, 6(2).


The Oka Crisis – since the 18th century the Mohawk have been requesting their right to the land, these requests fell on deaf ears until a golf course expansion was proposed in 1961. This nine hole golf course would be built on top of the Kanesatake reserve burial ground. In 1989 the mayor announced the the expansion from 9 to an 18 hole golf course with luxury condos despite the protest by the Mohawk. The RCMP, 2500 regular and reserve troops were placed on standby and 800 members of the infantry including aircraft pressuring the protesters to remove barriers. This crisis made the average Canadian more aware of Aboriginal Rights and Land claims and played a significant role in creating the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.


Last Residential school closes in Saskatchewan. the Gordon Residential School was the last federally run facility.


The Nisga’a Treaty. This treaty is the first treaty to be negotiated since 1976, the negotiations for this treaty began 100 years previous. Many of the rules under the Indian Act made it illegal for Indigenous people to raise funds and illegal for land ownership, those laws were repealed in 1951. In 1982 the Constitution Act section 35 recognized that Aboriginal right and title are legal rights.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologizes to survivors of Residential Schools. “Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country… the government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal people of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry.”

June 2008

Truth and Reconciliation Commission is established, the purpose is to discover and reveal past wrongdoings from government agencies with a goal of resolving the conflict.

Spring 2010

Bill C-3 – The Government of Canada introduces legislation to enhance Gender Equity in the Registration Provisions of the Indian Act, giving grandchildren of First Nations Status women the same recognition as the grandchildren of First Nations Status men.

June 2012

Christi Belcourt puts out a call for moccasin vamps to create Walking With Our Sisters and raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

July 2013

Chief Beau Dick breaks a copper on the steps of the legislature in Victoria, BC. The significance of a copper on the northwest coast is a measure of wealth and power. Breaking a copper is a measure of “challenge, shaming, and banishment”, the cultural significance is to symbolize the deeply fractured relationship between the Government of Canada and the First Peoples. This is a call to repair the broken relationship.

July 2014

Chief Beau Dick breaks a copper on the steps of the Parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario.

June 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its report and 94 Calls to Action.

December 2016

The Federal Government launches a National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.


67 years since the Potlatch Ban was removed from law, the same amount of time as the law was in effect.