The Place of the First Nations in School Books between 1900 and 1950

Many school books covered the history of America. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the representation of the First Nations in these manuals was for the most part highly subjective.

The manuals described the First Nations primarily as hunter-gatherers with a limited role: They were warriors or early fur traders. More emphasis was placed on their contribution to the development of the European economy than on their own history and culture. The Europeans seemed to believe that the First Nations were not self-sufficient and that they were rather submissive and easily controllable. Some writings even presented them as an obstacle to the growth and development of western societies.

The image of the First Nations in educational communities was equally unflattering. Since Euro-Canadians had trouble understanding certain aspects of their culture, it was difficult for them to portray First Nations adequately. Terms such as “savage” and “barbaric” were often used. The manuals described them as aggressive peoples.

Thus, for a long time, the depiction of the role and image of the First Nations in school books was superficial since the authors relied mostly on the writings of the first colonizers. Still today, their representation is erroneous thanks to the prejudices that prevailed in older texts.

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