What is Colonization?

The Myth of Terra Nullius

When Europeans arrived in North America they viewed the land as terra nullius or ‘nobody's land.’  This belief ignored that Indigenous Peoples were living on these lands and had been living here for thousands of years with their own cultures and communities.

What is Colonization? 

In Canada, colonization happened when a new group of people - Europeans -  arrived, took over and began to control Indigenous Peoples. Colonizers forced their religions, laws, values, and policies on Indigenous Peoples. They took control of land, resources, and trade. 

Colonizers thought they were superior to all people different from them, and some did not consider Indigenous Peoples to be people at all. They did not see Indigenous laws, governments, medicines, cultures, beliefs, or relationships to be legitimate. They believed that they had the right to make decisions affecting everybody, without consultation with Indigenous Peoples. These beliefs were used to justify the acts and laws of colonization.


Rail bridge at Garden River First Nation, reading "This Is Indian Land." Credit: Fungus Guy, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons