CAN HIS 11 First Nations


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Government Structures of First Nations Societies: 

Government Structures of First Nations Societies How were the governing structures and practices of pre-contact and post-contact First Nations reflective of their societies? Canadian History 11

Aboriginal Perspectives on Government: 

Aboriginal Perspectives on Government Well before Europeans arrived in the Americas Aboriginal peoples already had well established and complex systems of government Government structures varied between each Aboriginal society, but were all grounded in the same world view based on spirituality that involved living in harmony with the environment

Structures of Government: 

Structures of Government The Mi’kmaq Nation (pre-contact) M’ikmaq occupied what is now the Maritime provinces Prior to European contact the basic structure followed the extended family and was led by a Sagamore Followed 2 basic principles: respect for the rights of people, respect for – and preservation of – the environment Leaders were democratically appointed Men and women had equal opportunity Disputes were settled through mediation


Mi’kmaq Government – Post Contact Trade contact with Europeans in the late 18th century led to an expanded political system Mi’kmaq territory was divided into seven districts each with a District Chief The District Chiefs presided over a Council of Chiefs comprised of Elders The District Councils had many of the powers we associate with central government systems like our own The Mi’kmaq Nation also had a Grand Council consisting of the seven district Chiefs A Chief remained in office as long as he retained the people’s confidence

Mi’kmaq Government Structure(Post European Contact): 

Mi’kmaq Government Structure (Post European Contact) Grand Council - Seven District Chiefs Seven Districts -Each District led by a District Chief -Comprised of Chiefs and Elders within the District

Government Structures of First Nations Societies (cont’d): 

Government Structures of First Nations Societies (cont’d) The Iroquois Confederacy Traced back to 1142 CE Consisted of five First Nations living south of Lake Ontario: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and the Seneca Later they were joined by the Tuscaroras and the Confederacy became known as the Six Nations The Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy is currently led by Roberta Jamieson



The Six Nations developed a complex system of government based on democratic principles They are the oldest known democracy in the Americas Women had an elevated status as sole property owners, educators, and caregivers The Iroquois were matrilineal – ancestral lines were traced through the mother’s side Although men became chiefs – they were selected by the Clan Mother who also had the authority to remove any chief


All the clan chiefs made up a Village Council From here one chief was selected to be on the Nations Council From here one chief is elected to the Confederacy Council This was a form of representative democracy where all votes were given to delegates from all Nations to use in annual meetings Decisions of the council required a consensus Very similar to the Canadian system of government

Six Nations Government Structure: 

Six Nations Government Structure Confederacy Council -held annual meetings to discuss and resolve issues relating to the Six Nations exercised a representative voting process - all decisions had to be based on a full consensus Nations Council made up of Village Chiefs Dealt with issues affecting their own Nation Village Council -made up of Clan Chiefs - Clan Chiefs appointed by Clan Mother

The Concept of Property Ownership: 

The Concept of Property Ownership Aboriginal peoples did not consider the land to be something they owned as individuals, or as a society They considered the land a sacred trust that was available for their use and to preserve They would defend the land with force if necessary European’s concept of property ownership is embedded in law Land is owned by individuals to with as they please European’s began laying claim to the 'new lands' Aboriginals began to claim title to the lands they traditionally occupied Violence sometimes broke out between the Aboriginals and European settlers

Aboriginal Treaties: 

Aboriginal Treaties Aboriginal governments were negotiating and honouring treaties with one another long before Europeans arrived They negotiated who used the land, and how it would be used They expected their treaties with Europeans to be honoured as well The two cultures had fundamental differences in perception about their treaties

Aboriginal Treaties: 

Aboriginal Treaties To the (European based) government the treaties were a bill of sale – the land belonged to Canada To the First nations the treaties were only agreements about the ways the land will be used These differences are at the root of the many issues between the First Nations and the Federal government today

The Right to Self-Government: 

The Right to Self-Government The Indian Act, 1876 stated that the Federal government had the power to make decisions affecting Aboriginal peoples in Canada The 1980s Aboriginals fought for the right to govern themselves – power over matters affecting their culture, languages, traditions, and institutions At this point the federal government maintains matters affecting National interest, while Aboriginals gain control over matters pertaining to individual communities

Case Study: 

Case Study Please read chapter 12 and record important vocabulary . In a table, show the similarities and differences between the Iroquois Confederacy and Mi’kmaq government systems. Discuss the Aboriginal versus European ideology of land ownership? How did this affect treaty disputes? How did the government systems of the Mi’kmaq and the Iroquois Confederacy reflect their societies before and after European contact? 5. In what ways is the Aboriginal world view reflected in their governments?

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