Sociology Index

Native Indians

Native Indians is a racial formation in Canada. Native Indian Americans, also known as American Indians, or Indigenous Americans, are the indigenous peoples of the United States. The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia. From the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, Native Indians were increasingly drawn into the economy of white people as they became more involved in fur trading, and less reliant on their traditional livelihood, resulting in a weakening of political autonomy. Categories such as “Charter Groups,” “Native Indians,” and “Visible Minorities” are socially constructed.

In The Canadian Indian (1971), Palmer Patterson divides the history of relations between Canadian Native Indians and Europeans into four phases. The initial contact between Native peoples and Europeans, leading to a period of prosperity as the two groups exchanged technology and goods.

Animals were respected as equal in rights to humans among Native Indians. Animals were hunted, but only for food, and the hunter first asked permission of the animal's spirit. Among the hunter-gatherer society, the land was owned in common: there was no concept of private property in land, and the idea that it could be bought and sold was repugnant.

Many Native Indians had an appreciation of nature's beauty. The creation of reserves for Native peoples in order to clear the way for the agricultural settlements of whites. With the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, the colonial status of Native peoples was legally confirmed, because the act placed Indians under the legislative and administrative control of the federal government.

The period after World War II, as more Native peoples became aware of their plight and demanded control of their future. From the 1870s until 1921, eleven numbered treaties were signed between Native Indians and various provincial and territorial jurisdictions. In Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (2004), James Frideres notes that the success rate of Native claims has been low.