CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Sovereignty

History, Political Science
3 lessons
To identify the role and importance of sovereignty in contemporary Aboriginal communities in Canada
Using a variety of Web-based resources, students will research and role-play a panel discussion on the topic of self-government in Aboriginal communities.

Lesson Plan


The Labrador Innu were not considered status Indians until 2000. Unlike other First Nations across Canada, the Labrador Innu paid taxes and did not live on reserves. This was because there were no provisions made for aboriginal people when Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949. As a result, the Davis Inlet and Sheshatshiu Innu became orphaned communities, neglected by the government. Unlike status Indians, the Innu had no say over their education, health, or social services. They couldn't pass a no-littering bylaw, let alone ban gas-sniffing to help keep their young people safe.

You might want to share one or more of the following quotes from the Assembly of First Nations (the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada).

"Although generalizations about aboriginal definitions of aboriginal rights are difficult because of the diversity of aboriginal cultures, it can be said that most Aboriginal Peoples define aboriginal rights as inherent, collective rights which flow from their original occupation of the land which is now Canada and pre-contact social orders. For many the concept can be summed up as the right of independence through self-determination in respect of governance, land, resources, and culture. It is important to note that these rights are asserted by the Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada."

"In the traditional governments of Aboriginal Peoples, sovereignty is based on a spiritual understanding that the Creator gives human beings responsibility for governing themselves and taking care of the natural environment."

"Fighting for long standing First Nations rights is not merely a fight for natural resources and self-determination, it is also a fight for human rights, human dignity, and cultural survival."

Write the words "sovereignty" and "devolution" on the board or chart paper. Discuss the meaning of the words. Ask students to work with a partner to list reasons why they think the Assembly of First Nations is committed to sovereignty. Share and discuss the lists.

The Task

Students will role-play a short panel discussion for a television show. The topic is "Self-Government: What is it and why is it important?" Students will speak from the perspective of Aboriginal leaders. Students must ensure that their ideas are based on the research they have done and that they portray Aboriginal ideas accurately.

The panel should answer the following:

Why would the Innu ask the Government of Canada to register the Mushuau Innu and the Sheshatshiu Innu as Indians under the Indian Act?

What is the role of sovereignty in contemporary First Nations communities?

Why is sovereignty important to First Nations communities?

How have the First Nations attempted to exercise their sovereignty?

Any other questions that they think would shed light on the issue.

The Process

Students will work in small groups. They can begin their research at the topic Davis Inlet: Innu Community in Crisis on the CBC Digital Archives website. They can explore the clips; the links; the resources listed below; and the archives of newspapers, magazines, and television broadcasts to gather the information necessary to complete their research. Groups should note all resources consulted and cited.

Using their research, students write scripts and assign roles for panel members and the host, who will ask questions of the panel members.


Have students role-play their panel discussions. Following the discussions, hold a class discussion and ask students to share their own opinion about Aboriginal self-government. How did hearing different perspectives impact their opinion?

Assessment Tip
Have students complete the self-evaluation download sheet First Nations Self-Determination.

Download PDF

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