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Perspectives on Early Contact

  • Identify the perspective and message depicted in drawings of early contact between Europeans and First Nations people.
  • Redraw or describe the drawing, based upon an alternative perspective.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students learn about first contact between First Nations people and Europeans by uncovering the explicit and implicit messages contained in visual representations and then redrawing the images, based upon an alternative perspective.

In preparation for these activities, assemble a collection of drawings that depict First Nations–European contact during the exploration and/or colonization of North America by the French and English. C.W. Jefferys' drawings of early contact are excellent resources for this purpose because of the obvious Euro-centric perspective. Many of his drawings help students imagine perspectives for redrawing these pictures that are more sensitive to Aboriginal points of view. See Interpreting and Reinterpreting Images (Modelling the Tools) for samples of Jefferys' drawings and for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for thoughtful analysis of the message in pictures.

Paintings by artists from the historical time period, such as Comte de Frontenac, Samuel de Champlain and Paul Kane, could also be used.

Activity 1
Show students one of the drawings and ask them to identify the explicit message. The 5W questions (i.e., who, what, where, when, why) are useful ways to structure this inquiry.

Then, introduce the idea of an implicit message–the artist's implied attitudes toward the event. Help students interpret the implicit message of the picture by considering the perspective from which the drawing is offered, the artist's impressions of the people depicted and the overall symbol or theme of the image.

Activity 2
Ask students to imagine a revised interpretation of the event by presenting a different perspective–one that is more sensitive to and based upon a point of view not represented by the artist's rendering. It may be helpful to provide relevant information about First Nations people and to discuss the differences between French and British attitudes toward the exploration and colonization of pre-Confederation Canada.

Activity 3
Share other drawings of First Nations–European contact and ask students to interpret their messages and then to reinterpret them by offering perspectives not represented by the artist; e.g., Métis, French, women. Arrange for students to share and explain their reinterpreted accounts with the rest of the class.

Offer students the opportunity to study historical events, at different time periods, and reflect on how and why the perspectives of the French, Aboriginal and British peoples might have differed and/or been influenced by events and the political atmosphere of the time.

Adapted from Early Contact and Settlement in New France, edited by Ruth Sandwell, Catriona Misfeldt and Roland Case. Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002, pp. 1–32 (ISBN 0–86491–242–0)

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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