April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

Researching Canadian Aboriginal History and Ancestry

Chris Kitzan, Library and Archives Canada, Canada

This Web exhibition showcases historical federal government resources pertaining to Aboriginal research held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The website presents three thematic sections with contextual essays, databases and select photographic and manuscript records from the "Red and Black Series" (the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs' administrative records of Aboriginal people, from 1872 to the 1950s), the "Indian Treaties, Surrenders and Agreements" collection, and "Aboriginal Soldiers and the First World War."

In this phase of the project, all 524 treaties, surrenders and agreements, and 190 microfilm reels (approximately 220,000 pages) from the Red Series, are made available through online databases. The remaining records from the Red Series and the entire Black Series will be digitized in 2007-2008, and added to the database (approximately 600,000 additional images). These databases are just two examples of the richness and diversity of the collections located at LAC, and will benefit both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers.

The section entitled "Aboriginal Soldiers and the First World War" links to a third database containing over 800,000 pages of personnel files of those who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). It is estimated that more than 3,500 Aboriginal soldiers served in the First World War, even though they were exempt from military service. Many of them fought in the front line combat positions overseas. By the end of the war, 35 percent of the eligible Aboriginal population of Canada had enlisted. Soldiers' relatives and other researchers can now search for records of the Aboriginal men who served during this war using surnames, given names or regiment numbers.

For decades, the records found in these three databases have been used by researchers concerned with issues pertaining to Land Claims, Treaties, Band Councils and the recognition of Aboriginal Veterans. Historically, these documents were not readily available to the people most affected by them, and it would often by a matter of interpretation as to what was actually written in the document.

The potential research applications are endless. Aboriginal peoples now have easier access to material that directly affects them and their lives. In the past, research previously had to be done in person, incurring travel costs and other expenses. Having access to these records via the Internet permits more people to view and research these important historical records. This accessibility and efficiency will allow for greater use of the archival holdings, enable LAC to be more transparent and open in its holdings, and will provide an opportunity for the general public to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the historical relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canada.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Close-Up]

Keywords: Aboriginal Peoples, History, Genealogy, Land Claims Research