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What is Colonization? (5-6)

This is the grade 5-6 version of this lesson. KBI has a variety of Indigenous governance lessons for grades 4-9, all written and reviewed by Indigenous collaborators.

Let’s learn some terms and important ideas for this lesson.

Here is some vocabulary that will help you.



Sound out the word:




Rational means being sensible, using facts or reason rather than emotions or feelings.

Example of rational

After losing my bag, the rational thing to do was retrace my steps to see if I could find it.

Good learning. Onto the next one.



Sound out the word:




To rationalize means to create a reason, explanation, or excuse for something. 

People can rationalize (make excuses for) their bad behaviour. 

Example of rationalizing

I rationalized that it wasn’t my fault that I knocked you over with my skateboard. You shouldn’t have been walking on the sidewalk.

Good learning.

  If you'd like to have someone read this section for you, click play below.

When Europeans came to Turtle Island, and when Canada was created in 1867, Indigenous and European people saw the world very differently. 

In many ways, their worldviews and values were unique from one another. This affected how they treated one another.


Natural Resources



  • Protect
  • Act as stewards
  • Profit (make money)
  • Power





  • Partnerships
  • Maintaining peace
  • Trade
  • Control and power


Women's Roles



  • Strong roles for women in the community
  • Spiritual leadership
  • Taking care of children
  • Leadership positions
  • Farming
  • Had queens, but women were not seen as equal.
  • Refused to listen to female leaders
  • Not allowed to vote
  • Taking care of children


Today, women play important roles in Indigenous leadership. RoseAnne Archibald was elected the first female national Chief in Canada in 2021. 


Land and Power



  • Did not believe people could own the land
  • Cooperative, sharing of resources (like food, shelter)
  • Individuals own land to make money and have power
  • Wealth is passed down to the eldest son in several countries





  • Respected differences between communities
  • When one community visited another, they would do things the way that the community did them to show respect.
  • Believed that anyone who wasn't the same religion was less important
  • They believed they had the right to control the ways of life and the lands of anyone who had a different religion or beliefs



When Europeans arrived on Turtle Island, they quickly began to colonize it. 

Colonizing Turtle Island meant Europeans tried to control:

  • Community customs and languages
  • Governments 
  • Economy (resources)

The goal of the Spanish, British, and French settlers was the same: to control the people and the land of Turtle Island. 

This map shows the 3 main colonizing countries of Turtle Island (North America), French (blue), British (pink), and Spanish (orange). When the Europeans arrived, there were hundreds of Indigenous Nations living on Turtle Island from time immemorial. They are not shown on this map.

The Europeans believed that they were the most advanced, impressive cultures. 

Colonization is not about rational (reasonable, logical) thought.

Colonization is about rationalizing (excusing) racism and greed. 

This European painting shows how they viewed conquering Mexico.

In the background, you can see the large cities of the Aztecs. 

Light and dark have been used to show good and bad. The artist painted the Spanish in the light, and the Aztecs are in the shadows. This shows us that the Spanish thought they were right to attack and conquer. 


The Europeans started to force their beliefs and ways of doing things on the Indigenous Peoples. They tried to:

  • Convert them to their religion 
  • Make them speak their languages 
  • Change their way of life (where and how they lived)

The British, French, and later the Canadian governments began making laws to make it harder for Indigenous Peoples to live the way they had for thousands of years. 

For example:

  • Banning their traditional ceremonies that are important to their cultural identity 
  • Refusing to recognize the role of women in governance  and economics
  • Forcing Indigenous Nations to change their system of leadership
  • Controlling the land and resources 
  • Not recognizing family systems that include community relations
    • For example, members of a family could help by raising children from another family

The potlatch was an important community event on the west coast of Turtle Island to celebrate social (marriages, naming), and political (choosing a Chief), and economic (share resources) events. When potlatches were banned from 1884 to 1951, the events were held in secret, despite sometimes being broken up by police raids.

Try this activity:

  If you'd like to have someone read this section for you, click play below.

The governments worked hard to make sure Indigenous Peoples were treated as outsiders on their own land.

Despite this unfair treatment and colonization, Indigenous Peoples have been resilient. Indigenous Peoples and their cultures have survived.

Sacred ceremonies like the potlatch and dances were held in secret. Elders and Knowledge Keepers carefully shared traditional knowledge and stories with younger generations.

Through determination, Indigenous Peoples keep their languages and customs alive for future generations to follow.



Greg Pruden

After receiving a Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba in 1989 (majors in English and French, minor in Native Studies), I spent 30 years as an educator. For 16 years, I taught various subjects at the secondary level: Language Arts, History, Social Studies, French, Art, and Drama. Then I spent many years as a curriculum and policy consultant related to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Perspectives in the Curriculum and Assessment Branch Manitoba Education and Training. 

In addition to my professional career, I have worked as a creative writer, focusing on Indigenous, and especially, Métis issues and themes.

With my nephew and creative partner, singer/songwriter/actor Ted Longbottom, I have written over 100 songs, which have been featured in plays and on the radio. Our songs are often performed in schools for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where Ted is an Artist in the Schools. We write these songs to present the history and accomplishments of Indigenous Peoples, to help reconcile Indigenous and other Canadians, and to instill a sense of pride in young Indigenous listeners.

In 2022 I was contracted to collaborate with Kids Boost Immunity in the development of First Nations content for teacher resources to support the Manitoba Social Studies curricula.

To honour the perspectives through a First Nations lens and to be respectful of KBI’s commitment to their online format and to meet grade-level criteria, as well as be relevant across Canada, the lesson was compiled in partnership with the KBI team and their reviewers and collaborators.



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 This was just one of the lessons in our Cooperation & Colonization section. There are over 500 lessons on Kids Boost Immunity just like this one on a variety of subjects. Each lesson includes a quiz and every time a student scores 80% or higher on a quiz, we will donate life-saving vaccines to UNICEF Canada. Sign up now!

To see other example lessons, click here.

  Feb 13, 2024