When does the history of Canada begin? If we think of Canada as a political entity, then we will offer up one kind of answer (although, in all likelihood, we won’t agree at the outset on the answer). If we think of Canada as a space roughly defined by our current borders and as a stage on which humans perform, then the answer is necessarily going to take us as deeply into the past as we can go.
Having taken on the question of how do we know what it is we think we know? in Chapter 1, this chapter tackles the challenge of pushing back the frontier of history. Generations of students learned that the moment of contact between Europeans and Aboriginal peoples in the “Americas” marks the end of pre-history in this hemisphere and the beginning of the historical period. But that perspective has changed.
- Explain the various interpretations, scientific and religious, of the origins of indigenous peoples in the New World.
- Describe the political, cultural, and social differences between the major eras of the pre-contact peoples of Canada.
- Describe the political, cultural, and social differences between the groups of the major regions of Canada.
- Identify the great empires and confederacies of the pre-contact Americas.
- Locate the many different peoples of what is now Canada and its borderlands.
- Describe the different language groups, the different economic orders of the northlands, and their interconnectedness.
- Argue critically against notions of “pan-Indianism” and speak to the advantages enjoyed by Aboriginal societies in the absence of European contact.