PEOPLE AND STORIES OF CANADA TO 1867, by Michel Visser-Wikkerink and E. Leigh Syms, Portage & Main Press


Take a look at life in Canada from very early times until 1867. The history of Canada is presented in exciting stories about different people and intriguing events, including wars, betrayals, and acts of heroism. To help make history come alive, People and Stories of Canada to 1867 includes: hundreds of vibrant illustrations, pictures, and historical artwork detailed maps, charts, and diagrams accurate timelines to help organize historical information special information boxes to enhance content and much more! Recommended by Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth as a Manitoba Grade 5 Social Studies Learning Resource.


I was sent this book in exchange for my honest review.

Yes, this could be a text book.  Why did I request this book? Well, to be very honest with you, I’ve been researching historical events that had taken place in Canada for a book I’m writing and was surprise to see how outdated resource material was for this topic.  So I proceeded to research publishers who provide these books.  I found one, and here it is.

This book is divided into four parts, each with sub-sections, followed by a Glossary, a Pronunciation Guide, Index and Image Credits.  With all this said, I’ll break each section down for you so that you can see if this is a book you’d be interested in.  Now, I did mention that it could be a text book, but it could also be a huge resource tool for writers, like me. There’s a ton of information for the era depicted after 1867, but not so much of the era before that.  This book is an excellent historical reference.  It’s full of amazing information that I didn’t know and I am certain others would benefit from reading about, and loaded with beautiful side bars filled with amazing artwork, photos, and diagrams/maps, etc. So let’s break this down.

Part One:  FIRST PEOPLES. This section is broken down in to three sub-sections: The Origins of First Peoples of North America, Connections to the Land, and Canada’s First Peoples. In this section you’ll discover a timeline with fantastic drawings and clear definitions of each time indicated on the time line. The Ice Age is discussed including glacier movement, and how the land was prepared for civilization but first populated by animal and plant life. This section is broken down in a simple but effective format for understanding content.  It is filled with definitions, charts, figures, and photos.  You learn about food and where it’s found, kept and what it consisted of.  You read about the first people to populate the Laurentian Ice Sheet area and find out where they came from. You also discover a section about language.

Part Two:  EARLY EUROPEAN COLONIZATION. This section is divided into three sections: The Europeans Come to North America, The French in Canada, 1604 to 1759, The British in North America. In this section, you’ll discover how people survived without the amenities of today’s societies.  You’ll read about tools, weapons, where they were found, created and what they were used for. You’ll read about carvings made from teeth, bone and ivory.  There’s a section about early pottery using the “Blackduck-style.”

This section discusses Aboriginal groups and how they were educated by elders using the world around them as their classroom.  You’ll find maps depicting geographical zones of where they lived and what these zones are called.  Each zone is then broken down showing who lived in each, what they ate, what they made, how they governed their people.

Part Three: EARLY EUROPEAN COLONIZATION. In this section, you’ll find another timeline broken down with each section clearly defined. You’ll learn about when the Europeans came to North America, who they were and what happened to them. You’ll discover why it was important for them to find another route to Asia.  You’ll read about the Mi’kmaq story and a legend of a Mi’kmaq woman who dreamed of their arrival.

You’ll find a section about the Norse, in particular, about Eric the Red, and his son, Leif the Lucky, and Thorvald the Luckless, Leif’s brother. You’ll learn about the Sagas that tell more about the Norse exploration and settlement and how they were passed from one generation to another. Drawings and diagrams accompany all the information to further provide visual explanations of the topics discussed. You’ll learn of the ‘other’ name the Norse gave Newfoundland and about L’Anse aux Meadows and what its discovery meant to history. There’s a section that discusses the Basques, the Renaissance, the power of the church, the many Empires interested in the new land and the explorers who came in search of it.

The section continues with the French in Canada 1604 to 1759 where they tried to take over parts of North and South America. Here you’ll learn more about the French presence in North America and France’s role played in the colonies that would eventually become Canada.  Acadia is addressed and two mock interviews, one with Pierre de Monts and the other with Samuel de Champlain is included.  There’s even a mock interview with Chief Membertou, chief of the Mi’kmaq. The beginnings of Quebec is addressed along with who occupied the colony after Champlain’s death in 1635.

You’ll learn about a missionary colony for the Roman Catholic Church called Ville Marie with the hopes of converting Aboriginal peoples to Catholicism which wasn’t successful. There’s charts, maps and pictures to help with explanations.  The daughters of the king or filles du roi is discussed and when the first census was taken.  The seigneurial system is discussed along with division of land and who got it.  Church, schools and hospitals were brought in to the discussion and where and when they were erected and why. Finally, the fur trade is discussed and its importance to colony reviewed.  You’ll learn who became the governor of “New France.”

When the discussion turns to the British in North America, wigs are discussed and why they were worn and when this trend started.  This is where the first discussions of “Newfoundland” begins. Here the Beothuk people are reviewed answering questions of who they were, what happened to them and what they did to survive. Outbreaks of disease are discussed, those such as: smallpox, measles, and tuberculosis and how many aboriginal people died from illnesses brought over by Europeans, with some Aboriginal nations being wiped entirely out.

Discussions about the thirteen colonies, the war between France and Britain, four wars to be exact, from 1689 to 1763 and the founding of Halifax in 1749 is next. Here a variety of ‘firsts’ are discussed at length. The expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 to 1769 is brought up, including the oath of allegiance and how they settled with a modified oath. John Winslow’s task of expelling the Acadians and how it became impossible is also discussed and then we are brought to the seven years’ war, 1756 to 1763. You’ll read about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 and who led it.  A side story of the Drummer Boy is included in this section.

The Treaty of Paris, in February 1763 is reviewed and the aftermath are discussed  to show its effects on the Aboriginals.  So in this section you’ll learn about the early years of the English presence in North America and how the French defied the takeover but didn’t succeed and England was able to take over New France.  This section is quickly followed by a section regarding the Fur Trade with a timeline showing in detail, the order of events.  You’ll learn about the Early days of the fur trade and what they sold, where the furs came from, who worked the French fur trade and who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The fashion that fuelled the fur trade is looked at accompanied by charts and drawings. After this section, you’ll find one on how European fur traders and Aboriginal guides and trappers influenced each other, how the two fur-trade British and French, were different, how competition between the two fur-trade companies expanded exploration, and what new places and settlements arose from the fur trade. You’ll read how the Metis people came to be, where and how the Metis lived, what threatened the Metis way of life and what the Metis wanted.

Part Four: FROM BRITISH COLONY TO CONFEDERATION. Once again you begin a new section that shows a time-line with thorough breakdown of each section accompanied by wonderful photos helping to explain the text.  This section discusses loyalties and why people in the Thirteen Colonies wanted to remain British.  You’ll read about the hardships they suffered from by being loyal to Britain, what changes their arrival caused in the British colonies of North America and how the Loyalist migration affected the French and Aboriginal peoples. Revolutionary War is addressed and who was united with the Empire Loyalists. Then you’ll read about the end of the war, The Treaty of Paris, 1783, The Gun Shot Treaty, 1792 and where the Loyalists finally settled.  You’ll discover why British North America and the U.S. fought the War of 1812, what were the effects of the war on the people of British North America and who came to British North America after the war, and why?

Discussion on what life was like in Upper Canada and Lower Canada in the 1830s, what Responsible Government was, and why people wanted it, and what happened as a result of the Rebellions. Finally, you’ll read about why people wanted to join together as a country, why some people objected to Confederation, what roles different people played in bringing about Confederation, and how it came about.

This book is so full of useful historical information in that you’ll realize after reading it that the decisions made during the time of Confederation are continuing to affect us.

“The founding principles outline in the BNA Act are still Canadian ideals, and many of us cannot imagine a Canada that does not include all the provinces.”

You’ll find yourself asking what it means to be a citizen of Canada, who was considered a citizen in 1867, who can claim citizenship today and some of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in Canada.

I love the information contained in this book.  It’s laid out perfectly, with precise and useful information accompanied by beautifully, clear drawings/charts/maps/timelines, etc.

I gave this book:



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