Learning Outcome addressed

Explain how Canadians can effect change at the federal and provincial levels (related to policy, legal, and legislation);
Demonstrate knowledge of the challenges faced by aboriginal people in Canada during the 20th century and their responses, with reference to:
  • Self Government

Enduring Understandings

All governments have advantage and disadvantages.
Self Governance is active and engaging to its members

Essential Questions

Why are First Nations needs not met by the Canadian Government?

Suggested Time

4 x 75 minutes


Suggested Activities

The passage of legislation (laws) by the Federal Government of Canada had a significant impact on the Nisga’a People.After a struggle that lasted over 113 years, they were able to use the framework for passing laws in Canada to their own advantage and gain legal recognition through a modern day treaty. Through sustained persistence and determination they were successful in achieving the objective first started way back in 1887 when Nisga’a Chiefs traveled by water to Victoria to discuss the Nisga’a Land. Question only to be turned away on the steps of the legislature by Premier William Smithe.

Lesson # 1: Pre-Assessment and Introduction

Begin with a discussion of what students already know about Aboriginal People in Canada. Tell them that we are going to focus on one particular struggle faced by a group of people called Nisga’a. Show them where they are geographically situated and discuss some of the unique characteristics of this group of people.
View the DVD: Nisga’a: Dancing in Both Worlds.
What evidence of perseverance and protesting peacefully can they identify?
• think-pair-share
• K-W-L
• Journal entry

Lesson # 2 and # 3: Political Structures and Procedures

Outline the structure of the two levels of government in Canada and how bills are passed at both the Federal and Provincial level. How are they similar, how are they different?
• notes, diagrams, video
• flow chart
Discuss the significance of the following:
• 1949 Frank Calder is elected to the B.C. legislature
• 1951 Federal government repeals provisions of the Indian Act that prohibited land claims activity
• 1955 Nisga’a Land Committee is re-established as the Nisga’a Tribal Council and Frank Calder is elected the President
• 1960 Aboriginal People are granted the right to vote in Federal Elections
• 1973 The Calder Decision
• 1976 The Federal Government adopts a ‘comprehensive land claims policy’ and the Nisga’a begin negotiations. The government of B.C. attends but only as an observer
• 1982 The Constitution of Canada recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal rights
• 1990 B.C. formally enters into the Nisga’a negotiations
• 1991 The Federal, Provincial, and Nisga’a sign an agreement to work together
• 1993 The Delgamuukw Decision
• 1996 Representatives from the Nisga’a Tribal Council, the Federal Government, and B.C. sign the Nisga’a Agreement in Principle
• 1998 the Nisga’a Treaty is initiated in Gitlakdamix
• 1998 The Nisga’s Final Agreement is introduced in first reading to the B.C. legislature
• 1999 Bill 51 receives Royal Assent
• 1999 Bill C-9, the Nisga’a Final Agreement is introduced in the House of Commons
• 2000 the Senate approves Bill C-9 and it receives Royal Assent by the Governor General, Madame Adrienne Clarkson
• 2000 Nisga’a Lisims Government formally comes into effect, with a Constitution. It passes it first laws
Students will work together in groups of three to outline the historical significance of these events and then share their findings.
• Quiz: How a bill becomes a law
• Create and decorate a timeline of the significant events

Lesson # 4: Key Features of the Agreement and Conclusion

Examine the division of powers that was agreed to in the Nisga’ a Treaty.
The successful ratification of this treaty was the beginning a new era for the Nisga’a people. Refer back to the DVD (perhaps view the part that focused on the expanded opportunities in education, tourism, fishing etc) and discuss the benefits for this Aboriginal Community.
Ask students to respond the following question: What impact did the signing of the treaty have on:
• resources (fishing)
• education
• tourism
• self-government
• self-esteem (pride)
Discuss specific examples of each.
Conclude with a discussion two enduring themes in the DVD:
• the significance of the political success of the Nisga’a
• what it means to “dance in both worlds’
• Finish timeline
• Complete K-W-L chart



Demonstrate knowledge of how laws are passed by the Federal Government of Canada
Demonstrate knowledge of the specific laws that were passed by the Canadian Government designed to suppress the rights of the Nisga’a people after 1887.

  • 1889 Fishing Rights taken away
  • 1927 Ottawa prohibits Aboriginal People from organizing to
discuss the Land Question
Demonstrate knowledge of the political gains made by the Nisga’a people with specific reference to Nisga’a Chief Frank Calder and Joe Gosnell along with other members of the Nisga Land Committee first established in 1890.
Understand that treaty rights are negotiated and become law.
Understand the key features of the agreement

Pursuing Role




It will be expected that students will:
• apply critical thinking and research skills and apply them to the signing of the Nisga’a Treaty
• review the structure of government (e.g., Governor General, Senate, House of Commons, Member of Parliament, branches of government) set up by the BNA Act of 1867 (Canada’s Constitution)
• use flowchart to demonstrate the passage of legislation through Parliament
• Distinguish between the Federal and Provincial levels of Government and how they both played a role in the passage of Bill 51, on April 26, 1999 and Bill C-9 on April 13, 2000.
• Describe the division of powers between the Federal, Provincial and the Nisga’a s Lisims Government which replaced the Nisga’a Tribal Council in the year 2000.
• Understand and appreciate how the Nisga’a protested their grievances peacefully and with dignity meeting with politicians face-to-face, nation-to-nation.


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