Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years

Intergovernmental Relations


Alliances between Aboriginal groups predate European contact, and continue today in modern form.

When Europeans arrived, Aboriginal people sometimes adapted already existing alliances to incorporate the newcomers. These Aboriginal and European people lived on terms of relative equality. During peacetime, Europeans wished to maintain goodwill for the sake of the fur trade. In times of war, Europeans asked Aboriginal people either to be military allies or to be neutral. In situations where Aboriginal people had no alliances with Europeans, the outcome could be devastating, as with the Beothuk of Newfoundland. As European colonizing countries resolved their power struggles, and as the fur trade declined, and Aboriginal populations grew smaller, Europeans no longer needed the support of Aboriginal people in their military or economic activities.

Today, the protection of Aboriginal rights in the Canadian Constitution has led to renewed alliances among Aboriginal people for political unity and economic revitalization.

Medal - III-H-472 - D2002-013292 - CD2002-345 Medal - III-H-476 - D2002-013298 - CD2002-345
(left) Medal, King George III, early issue
About 1776
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-H-472, D2002-013292, CD2002-345

Silver medals such as this, bearing the British royal coat of arms and the image of a youthful King George III, were presented by Crown officials to selected Native leaders at the time of the American Revolution, in recognition of Native support against colonial insurgents.

(right) Queen Victoria Peace and Friendship Medal
Designed by W. Wyon
Silver with silk ribbon
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-H-476, D2002-013298, CD2002-345

Medals bearing the image of Queen Victoria were presented to Native chiefs and leaders from 1837 to 1901.

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