FROM “INDIANS” TO “FIRST NATIONS”: CHANGING ANGLO-CANADIAN PERCEPTIONS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY*

Smith B. Donald

Abstract


A look at three university-organized conferences, the first in 1939, the second in 1966, and the most recent in 1997, reveals an increasing awareness of Aboriginal issues — particularly in the 1990s. From the mid- to the late twentieth century, Indians, now generally known as the First Nations, moved from the periphery into the centre of academic interest. The entrance of Aboriginal people, “the third solitude,” has altered completely the nature of Canada’s unity debate. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 19821 affirms the existence of Aboriginal and treaty rights. The definition of “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” in the new constitution of 1982 now includes the Métis, as well as the First Nations and Inuit. Today, no academic conference in Canada on federalism, identities, and nationalism, can avoid discussion of Aboriginal Canada.


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