British Empire
Living in the British empire - North America
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Report from a British official on meetings with Native Americans in 1875
(Catalogue ref: CO 880/7/10)
  • Britain controlled Canada in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
  • On the whole, relations between the British and the Native Americans were relatively good (see source 1 of this case study).
  • In some ways this is surprising. The Native Americans lost most of their lands as a result of European settlers driving them out.
  • However, Native Americans generally preferred British rule to rule by the USA or by the settlers in British North America. Throughout the 19th century there was a steady stream of native Americans out of the USA and into British North America.
  • This document is an official report written in 1875 by the Earl of Dufferin. He had travelled to the western parts of Canada to see how the Native Americans were being treated. These lands were only just being opened up to European settlers.
  • The British government encouraged Native Americans to move westward in the 1800s to avoid conflict with the European settlers. They gave 80 acres of land in the western territories to each family, as well as guns, carts and other equipment.
  • By 1875, when this source was produced, the British government had little control over the western territories of Canada. The settlers and the Canadian government decided that 80 acres was too much, and many Native Americans found the land was taken away from them. This was often made easier because Native Americans grazed animals without fences. When they moved from one area to another, they might come back the following year and find that white farmers had fenced off the land.
  • The report gives the impression that the Native Americans feel they can trust the representative of the British government, they are glad he has come and that they can tell him their concerns. It is clear that the Earl feels responsible for the Native Americans because they are subjects of Queen Victoria. Despite his sympathies, little was done to help them.
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