First Peoples in Canada. 3rd ed.


387 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55365-053-0
DDC 971.004'97





Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


This latest edition of First Peoples in Canada includes updated source
materials to 2003 (especially from areas of law and policy), which
contributes to an Aboriginal perspective of First Nations–government
relations. The book starts with an overview of Aboriginal peoples in
Canada, follows with a look at the geological and archeological evidence
relating to the first peoples who lived here, then examines (in separate
chapters) the various geographical and cultural areas across Canada. A
separate section on the Metis has been updated to include the results of
the recent Powley case (a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of
Canada recognized for the first time that the Metis have rights to hunt
for food). The book concludes with discussions of various
socio-political and legal issues between First Nations and government.

The work is uneven in its treatment of geographical areas. The West
Coast and Plains cultures appear to be more comprehensively presented,
which may be the product of the combined expertise of the authors. East
Coast cultures (in particular the Ojibwa) are summarized from the rather
shaky foundation of anthropologist Ruth Landes (current scholarly
thinking exposes the limitations of her ethnographic reconstruction of
the Ojibwa). In addition, there are a few factual errors (e.g., the
authors’ claim that treaties in Ontario started in 1850; the correct
year is 1786), and an inconsistency in the use of various names of
groups on maps. Another criticism is the absence of footnotes (a problem
for instructors trying to impress on their students the importance).
Criticisms aside, this fine book—which will likely continue to serve
as the standard work for those interested in First Nations history—is
highly recommended.


McMillan, Alan D., and Eldon Yellowhorn., “First Peoples in Canada. 3rd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,