Territory Loss and the Reserves

The creation of Indian reserves marked a turning point in the lives of the country’s first inhabitants. According to the Indian Act, an Indian reserve was a parcel of land held by the Crown and destined for the use and benefit of the First Nations. Some of them were created by treaties, while others were purchased by bands or granted by decree or trust agreements. The Act specified the surface area of the lands and the activities that were permitted on them. The first reserves came into existence in the seventeenth century under the French Regime, but it was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that they became a permanent solution.

The massive influx of immigrants in the nineteenth century led the colonial authorities to attempt to acquire ancestral lands in order to settle colonizers on them. Land clearing and the creation of farms forced game animals to move north, which made it much more difficult for hunters to provide for their families. Then, around 1810, the timber trade became the main economic activity of the colony, which contributed to the decline of the fur trade. Not only were the First Nations no longer active contributors to economic development, but deforestation forced them off their lands and the resulting famine forced them to change their lifestyle and to settle on the reserves.