An outstanding politician, scholar, activist and Cree writer, Harod Cardinal was also recognized as a great contributor to the welfare of the Aboriginal Society in Canada. Born on January 27, 1945 to a family of Frank and Agnes Cardinal, the future social activist was raised in High Prairie, Alberta (Beavon et al., 2005). In 1965, Cardinal finished high school in Edmonton and moved to Ottawa to study sociology at St. Patrick’s College.
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His first attempts in politics and social life started when he was a student. Thus, Cardinal took the position of the associate secretary for the Canadian Union of Students in 1967. The young politician considered Indian affairs and was elected president in 1968 (Beavon et al., 2005, p. 35).
At the age of 23, Cardinal became the youngest representative ever, holding the position of the president of the Indian Association of Alberta (IAA) (Beavon et al., 2005, p. 35). During nine years of his presidency, the activist had put forward a plethora of policies and programs that contributed to the welfare of the indigenous population in Canada.
Specific attention deserves such works as The Unjust Society: The Tragedy of Canada’s Indians written in 1969 and The Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian, which is also famous as the White Paper. Another his book called The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians introduced in 1977 also highlights criticism of government’s Indian policies.
Apart from his public life, Cardinal also worked as the chief of Sucker Creek Bank and as the vice-president for the Assembly of the First Nation. However, to fill in the gap in public sphere, the activist returned to school and obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree of Law at the University of Saskatchewan and Harvard University respectively (Beavon et al., 2005).
In 2000, Cardinal was honored by a doctorate received from the University of Alberta. After he graduated from the University, Cardinal delved deeply into his lifetime goals to protect the Native Canadians and fight for justice and freedom of indigenous societies.
His contributions and achievements were proved by a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, which was among the leading accomplishment of the writer and activist.
The organization acknowledged the valuable contributions that Cardinal made, as well as his prompt assistance and support of Indians in Canada. Indeed, the Native spokesman managed to provide the Aboriginals with a wider national and legal access to social life, as well as strengthen their rights and freedoms.
With regard to the above-delivered information, Cardinal’s accomplishments have been influential and multifaceted. While considering his published works, the author managed to introduce the book that acquired public approval and recognition. In particular, his book The Unjust Society is regarded as a reference book for future generations of First Nation activists (Cuthand, 2007).
While studying at the University of Saskatchewan, Cardinal introduced a remarkable paper called Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan in which the author highlights basic First Nations principle of the treaties “…as seen through the eyes and memory of the elders” (Cuthand, 2007, p. 90). The book is also a comprehensive guide used by the First Nations initiatives.
In addition, the supporter of the Aboriginal’s rights created expressions and definitions that are in active use nowadays. Cardinal viewed Aboriginal people as “the red tile in the Canadian mosaic, equal but distinct” (Cuthand, 2007, p. 90). He referred to First Nations people as citizens who should fight for their treaty rights. Bigotry and ignorance in regard to indigenous population should be resisted.
The influence of Cardinal’s book on society and government was profound because it has changed the way both newcomers and residents of Canada understood their attitudes to aboriginal people. It also had a tangible impact on how government addressed aboriginal problems. The central point of treatment of indigenous societies lies in spiritual and cultural awareness of the Canadian citizens (Mookerjea et al., 2009).
Therefore, the crucial importance of the treaties premises on protection of civil rights of all the members of the Canadian society irrespective of gender, race, and ethnic characteristics. In this respect, The Unjust Society has contributed greatly to the improvement of the political philosophy (Mookerjea et al., 2009).
Indeed, Cardinal managed to make a serious transition in ideological and political thinking; he also provided new prospects for cultural development in Canada. His books reflected a new historical and cultural account about the life and experience of the Aboriginal society, as well as stressed the significance of integrating cultural studies into political environment.
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According to Mookerjea et al. (2009), “The Unjust Society also thrust Cardinal further into the demands of political activism” (n. p.). Being the president of the Indian Association of Alberta, the politician was an important figure who promoted the foundation and development of the National Indian Brotherhood, which gave rise to the formation of the Assembly of the First Nations.
The second book – The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians – was crucial in founding the Prairie Treaty Nations Alliance and served as the underpinning for a Treaty 8 negotiator (Mookerjea et al., 2009).
Cardinal’s extensive and profound research on the history of aboriginal people is further introduced in many of his works. Deliberate protection of Indian rights and fight for equal treatment stemmed from the indifference, plain bigotry and ignorance of the fellow Canadian societies.
Apart from active political life, the Native spokesman Cardinal made valuable contribution to the development of education in Canada. In this respect, the activist pointed out that education cannot progress separately from people. Rather, it should be accompanied and enhanced by adult achievement. Students, therefore, must be recognized as the source for developing and improving an academic process.
Within the context of aboriginal rights, Indians should be approached with regard to their cultural backgrounds before working out specific curricula. According to Buckley, “integrated schooling was intended not merely to improve school programs and broaden education opportunities” (p. 99). It should also provide Indians with the tools for achieving their goals.
In conclusion, Harold Cardinal is recognized as a remarkable figure in historical, political and cultural life of the Canadian Aboriginal Societies. His multiple achievements and contributions to the protection and development of the rights of indigenous population have proved the possibility to create an equal and just society.
The activist also introduced a number of books criticizing the Canadian government and its prejudiced attitude to the First Nation. Numerous reforms and researchers also provided a vivid account on the history of development of Indian generations, as well as presented new directions in reshaping Canadian culture.
Therefore, Cardinal has a decisive role in reassessing the importance of culture for the Canadian population.
Beavon, D. J. K., Voyageur, C. J., & Newhouse, D. (2005). Hidden in Plain Sight: Contribution of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture. Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Buckley, H. (1993). From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare: Why Indian Policy Failed in the Prairie Provinces. US: McGill-Queens.
Cuthand, D. (2007). Askiwina: A Cree World. US: Coteau Books.
Mookerjea, S., Szeman, I., & Faurschou, G. (2009). Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader. US: Duke University Press.