A brief history of post-contact First Nations


By Drew Hayden Taylor

Originally published in March 2012

Not that long ago I was approached by the CBC to see if I could somehow encapsulate the history of Canada’s First Nations, post contact, in 120 seconds or so. ‘Wow,’ I thought. This is why people get PhDs. This assignment was for their 8th Fire documentary television series. Intrigued by the challenge, I decided to accept the task.

To make it more interesting, I decided to approach it from the perspective of a new gospel – The Gospel of Drew.

Heretics welcomed.

So here it is, and pay attention, there may be an exam later.

In the beginning, known as Time Immemorial, there was a land called Turtle Island.

It stretched from Mi’maq to Haida to Inuit territory. And it was good.

Then one day, 520 years ago, for reasons unknown, the Creator said ‘let there be white.’

And there was. A lot of them.

And our wise Elders said ‘there goes the neighborhood’.

First to come were the Vikings, then John Cabot.

First to go were the Beothuks and then most of the Huron.

That was not good.

Turtle Island became Kanata, and then Canada.

Cartier and Champlain came a’knockin’ in ships, and beaver fur was a’leaving in those same ships.

Explorers came and spread out across the land, discovering far and exotic places like Flin Flon and Moose Jaw.

Tens of thousands of people living on hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land were delighted to have been “discovered.’

They finally learned where they actually lived.

Imagine existing all those generations and not knowing you were in Saskatchewan.

Christianity, with all its love, came with all its brutality.

Soon, civilization took its course—As small pox begat treaty which begat Reserves which begat the Department of Indian Affairs.

Poundmaker, Big Bear, Louis Riel, and Jesse Jim from The Beachcombers all became Canadian icons.

New words entered our languages – Confederation.

Residential schools.

Class action suits.


Many of our words entered their language – Canoe, Oka, Ipperwash, Elijah Harper.

But all was not bad. Canada’s First Nations people grew to appreciate many of the White Man’s gifts.

Air conditioning.

Four wheel drive trucks.

Kraft dinner.


And the White man enjoyed many of our contributions;
Tomatoes, corn, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and tobacco.

Today there are almost a million and a half people of Aboriginal descent in Canada.

Approximately the same amount as when all this started.

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Except instead of buffalo as far as the eye can see, there are now Tim Hortons as far as the eye can see.

A double double – one of the three great inventions by white people.

The other two being television and the baseball cap.

What will tomorrow bring… who knows?

Me - I’m predicting aliens.

No historians or cultural anthropologists were hurt during the writing of this history.

To see the filmed version, go to CBC.ca/8th Fire, and open the Aboriginal 101 page.