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Welcome to Aboriginal Documentary Heritage: Historical Collections of the Canadian Government. This Web exhibition recounts first-hand information illustrating the complex and often contentious relationship between the Canadian government and Canada's Aboriginal people from the late 1700s to the mid-20th century.

The website presents three thematic sections with essays and selected documents about the Red and Black Series (the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs' administrative records of Aboriginal people from 1872 to the 1950s), Treaties, Surrenders and Agreements, and Aboriginal Soldiers in the First World War. This phase of the project features searchable databases of digitized records from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (RG 10) fonds and the soldiers of the First World War. It includes records for the majority of the Red Series (documents dealing with Eastern Canadian locations in volumes 1855 to 2151 on microfilm reels C-11103 to C-11169), and the entire 524 records that form the Treaties, Surrenders and Agreements in the collection of Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

During the next phase, the remaining documents from the Red Series along with the entire Black Series (documents dealing with Western Canadian locations) will be digitized and added to the database. Until the digitization of these additional records has been completed, searching the database will yield results of records described at the file level. Government records from the RG 10 fonds that pertain to Aboriginal soldiers' participation in the First World War will also be among the documents digitized in the next phase of the project.

Most files in RG 10 are arranged by band, agency or district. This hierarchy of information, together with the time period of interest, is critical to locating relevant files. In cases of research on individuals, knowing the band to which the person belonged is the single most important piece of information the researcher can have. Knowledge of whether a band signed a treaty, and when, might also help to narrow a search. Visit the Keyword Search for tips and for more information on searching by keywords in the Government Records collections.

Learn more about the significance of the documents that form the Red and Black Series and the Treaties, Surrenders and Agreements from an Aboriginal perspective, by reading a contextual essay.

Read about the support given by Public History Inc. towards the digitization of the Red and Black Series.

For more information about the images used in the Web design, visit Photo Credits.


The Glossary is intended to clarify the use of certain historical and current terminology in Canada that refer to Aboriginal peoples. For more information, please visit Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/pr/info/tln_e.html)

Aboriginal peoples
The descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people -- Indians, Métis and Inuit. These are three separate peoples with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
A term that is now synonymous with "community," or depicts a local government entity. It is now rarely used in formal reference to a First Nation community. For the purposes of the Indian Act, it refers to a body of "Indians" declared to be a band, or for whose collective use and benefit lands have been set apart or money is held by the Crown.
First Nation
This term came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the word "Indian," which some people found offensive. Although no legal definition of the term exists, it is still widely used. Among its uses, the term First Nations refers to the Indian peoples in Canada. Some aboriginal communities have adopted the term to replace the word "band."
Historically, the term "Indian" has collectively described all Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are not Inuit or Métis. The term "Indian" is used on this website when referring to Canada's Aboriginal peoples in the context of historical Government departments, documents, policies and laws.
Indian Act
Canadian federal legislation, first passed in 1876, and amended several times since. It sets out certain federal government obligations and regulates the management of First Nations' reserve lands, moneys and other resources. It also sets out the requirements for determining who is an "Indian" for the purposes of the Indian Act.
Aboriginal people of mixed First Nation and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis, as distinct from First Nations or Inuit people.
A group of Aboriginal people sharing a common language and culture. The term is used frequently in the United States, but only in a few areas of Canada (e.g. the Blood Tribe in Alberta).

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