The Prince Albert Grand Council recognizes the critical importance of our oral histories as First Nations peoples. First Nations Elders continually remind us that in order to know “Where we are going”, we must know “Who we are” and “Where we have come from”. As the respected teachers, storytellers and historians of our First Nations communities, our respected Elders uphold our traditions and pass on to us the sacred knowledge from the past, so that we will honour ourselves as First Nations peoples and pass their knowledge and wisdom onto future generations.
Our ways are very important to us, and, in the North, we still strongly believe in our ways. We still carry on our practices of traditional harvesting, as well as hunting…. Methods we have always utilized, we still do that, we teach them to our young people. We make every effort to make our word heard as Elders, and I’m pretty sure just by doing that we pretty well fulfilled our side in terms of transferring information from the old generation to the young generation about the importance of things such as treaties and harvesting of the wildlife products, as well as using our land as we promised we would do. (Elder Celeste Randhill, Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation, Treaty 8, Cited in Cardinal & Hildebrandt, 2000:37)
However, the schools that First Nations children and youth primarily now attend rely mainly upon historical written documents by people of European ancestry. The first European historical documents were written by these newcomers to First Nations territories, within the continent now known and referred to as North American, as well as the two countries of Canada and the United States of America. The European ancestry had brought with them their own languages, system of knowledge and written text to what they called the “New World”. This included explorers and fur traders, who were followed by missionaries, government employees and a variety of scholars.
These newcomers to First Nations territories applied their field of knowledge to the lands and peoples they encountered, as they viewed them through unfamiliar foreign eyes. To verify the previous statement, these newcomers to First Nations territories frequently recorded and renamed the landforms and Aboriginal people they encountered according to the terminology available to them in their own languages, be it English, French, Dutch, Spanish, etc, or through their limited understanding of First Nations languages. As an example, the Dakota has been referred to as Sioux (Elias, 1988). In addition, the Denesuline people living in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, in many of the earlier historical documents are referred to as “Chipewyans” (Coutu & Hoffman-Mercredi, 1999).
Furthermore, the view of the First Nations peoples’ concept of land ownership to that of the people of European ancestry continues to be an issue of concern, as verified by the following quote:
There are a lot of people that came from across the big water and you have to remember that they are the newcomers, and we, the people, the First Nations people who live here, are the First Peoples of Canada. When you came here, when your relatives came here a long time ago, we welcomed them. We are not even respected or recognized within our traditional homelands. Our rights, our ways, [there’s] always people basically blocking us, trying to get in our way. Trying to divert our attention so that we lose ways and our land. We talk about our land, nothing else. And we don’t block anyone else from coming and sharing our land with us. (Elder John James Mercredi, cited in Cardinal & Hildebrand, 2000:64-5)
In recent years, however, new waves of academics and scholars have dedicated themselves to writing about the history of First Nations people and the traditional territories that they are indigenous to. This includes a number of First Nations people who continue to struggle to validate their indigenous systems of knowledge within the context of written documentation. These First Nations scholars have written a number of recent documents, from the late twentieth century onwards, which not only strive to be culturally and linguistically respectful, but which also strive to respectfully document the oral histories shared by First Nations Elders (Bear, 1976; Cardinal, 1969; Ermine, 2000; McLeod, 1999; Merasty, 2000; Opekokew, 1980; 1984).
This website includes a broad range of historical documents, written by people from a variety of different backgrounds, including First Nations people. Leo J. Omani of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation compiled the research for these documents, with additional information and final editing provided by both Leo J. Omani and the Prince Albert Grand Council.
This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy.
||Documented Historical Research
Leo J. Omani, B.Ed; M.Ed.
U of S, Doctoral Ph.D. Student
2003, Updated March 2009.