Aboriginal Peoples and their History

February 19, 2014 | Miriam

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The popular History Matters series returns to Toronto Public Library with a new series on the aboriginal peoples of Canada, their past and present. Curated by historians Jay Young and Giberto Fernandes of ActiveHistory.ca, these talks will bring the past alive and open up the rich and vibrant cultures of the aboriginal peoples that lived in this part of the Americas prior to European contact. As well, the series will look at aspects of the long and bitter history of aboriginal people in this country, a history marked by brutality, racism and deprivation at the hands of successive colonial and modern governments.

VictoriaFreeman_400The first talk, Remembering Toronto’s Indigenous and Colonial Past, is at the Spadina Road branch on Thursday, February 27, 7 pm. The speaker is Dr. Victoria Freeman, a professor in the Aboriginal Studies program at the University of Toronto. This history is not well-known to most Torontonians and Dr. Freeman's presentation will explore some of the reasons for that. She is the author of Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America.

It is fitting that the first talk is at the Spadina Road branch, which houses Toronto Public Library's Native Peoples Collection. This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the collection in this lovely and newly renovated branch.

Louis_riel_and_fellow_governing_councillors_manitoba_1869_manitoba_archivesThe next talk in the series is What Sir John A. Macdonald Thought of “Indians” and Other Tales From the Courtroom at  Dufferin/St.Clair on March 20, 7 pm. Professor William Wicken (York) will discuss the January 2013 federal court decision regarding non-status and Métis people in which he was an expert witness. He will also look at how historical research has shaped current legal and constitutional understanding of Aboriginal peoples' place in Confederation. 

The series continues with Before Ontario: Archaeology and the Province's First Peoples at the Toronto Reference Library on April 2, 6:30 pm. Heritage Toronto presents a fascinating exploration of the latest archaeological insights into the lives of Indigenous people in Southern Ontario prior to contact with Europeans.

Picture-495The final talk is Hunger, Human Experimentation and the Legacy of Residential Schools at the Annette Street Branch on April 29, 6:30 pm. Historian Ian Mosby (Guelph) will talk about his ground-breaking research into one of the cruelest episodes in the history of Canada's residential schools: the biomedical "experiments" conducted by government researchers in the 1940s and '50s in which already malnourished Aboriginal people, including children, were deliberately starved by these "investigators."

This is the fourth History Matters series at Toronto Public Library. A means of bringing the research and discussions of the academic world to a broader audience, History Matters has explored such diverse subjects as prohibition in the Junction, the history of madness, the battles of Portuguese cleaners in the 1980s, Jewish garment workers and the World War II internment of Japanese Canadians.

ActiveHistoryLogoMany of the talks have been recorded and the podcasts may be found on the ActiveHistory.ca website.