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Re-imagining a Past without Imperialism

How might the profiled Aboriginal society look today if imperialism had not occurred?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students investigate the long-term implications of imperialist practices by imagining how present conditions for Aboriginal peoples may be different if a specified imperialist practice in Canada had not occurred.

Select a historical event as a basis for a counterfactual scenario
This activity assumes that students are familiar with the impacts of imperialist practices. Ask students to select one or more of the events explored in the earlier challenge; e.g., creation of residential schools, passage of the Indian Act, as the basis for developing a counterfactual scenario.

The point of the exercise is not to imagine Aboriginal peoples isolated from the world but rather to speculate as to how present conditions would be different if the specified event had occurred in a much less imperialistic manner.

For help with framing and selecting events, see Guidelines for Counterfactual Scenarios (Background Information).

Review and research the impact of imperialist events on Aboriginal life
Teachers may find it helpful to explore the effects of imperialism by assigning relevant readings from approved texts or by arranging for students to view relevant films that address the issue of the lasting effects of imperialism on Aboriginal peoples.

Imagine "What if an imperialistic practice had not occurred?"
Invite students to imagine that the identified imperialistic practice had not occurred. Ask students to determine the implications for Aboriginal peoples in these five dimensions:

  • population
  • political autonomy
  • culture and language
  • territory
  • economic well-being.

Write a counterfactual scenario
Organize students in groups to work on an assigned historical event. In developing the counterfactual scenario, direct students to consider four questions:

What actually happened in the five dimensions as a result of the event?

How might the event have occurred in a much less imperialistic manner? Encourage students to think of a more positive, but not completely unrealistic outcome.

What might have been possible consequences in the five dimensions if the original event had not occurred as it did? Encourage students to think of various possible outcomes, including, perhaps, a minimal, moderate and maximal change for each dimension.

Which of these possible consequences seems most plausible? Ask students to provide evidence of what they judge to be the most plausible expected impact.

You may want to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess students' responses to each question.

It will be important that students research a representative range of the perspectives on the topic. Remind students to look for evidence of a lack of balanced or fair-minded treatment in the resources they consult.

Share counterfactual scenarios
Arrange for students to share their counterfactual scenarios with the rest of the class. Invite students to consider, in light of their speculations about alternative outcomes, whether the agents or governments who implemented imperialistic practices bear some responsibility for the present conditions of Aboriginal peoples.

Last updated: May 30, 2008 | (Revision History)
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