CANADA'S FIRST NATIONS: A HISTORY OF FOUNDING PEOPLES FROM EARLIEST TIMES
Volume 20 Number 5
Olive Dickason has written a timely and thorough history of the history of aboriginal people in this country. The book will be warmly welcomed by teachers and classes in aboriginal history in post- secondary institutions across Canada.
Since the failure of the Meech Lake Accord in 1990, there has been a great surge of interest in aboriginal history. This book meets that demand and demonstrates that aboriginal people do indeed have a fascinating and important history in this country.
Dickason records the archaeological evidence indicating habitation in regions of Canada at least 11,000 years ago as well as the many indications that there was some degree of trading going on thousands of years ago in many parts of North America. She points to some of the artefacts found thousands of miles from their place of origin as proof that these cultures did indeed have contact with each other.
The book has a large selection of maps, charts and photographs, all of which are useful not only for telling the story but also as resources for further study.
Using a wide variety of sources, Dickason puts together a comprehensive picture of life in Canada prior to official recorded history. As well, she puts an aboriginal perspective on events after Europeans arrived (when official histories normally begin).
While there are other books dealing with part of this story, such as Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 1989), none are as up to date as Dickason's work.
She neither tries to portray aboriginal societies as Eden-like nor glosses over contemporary problems. As a balanced account of different tribes and regions, it necessarily spends a great deal of time going over familiar territory in reciting the attempts by successive governments to assimilate aboriginal people.
This book is almost certain to become a standard university text both for its thoroughness and for its readability. The author is to be commended on this important book, which will further the understanding of the role of aboriginal peoples in the history of this country.
Highly recommended for all postsecondary institutions and for public libraries.
David Chadwick is a former high school librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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