Exploring the Impact of Colonization on Indigenous Civilizations: A Background to our text - Rabbit Proof Fence

Aim: To compare and contrast the experiences of indigenous peoples around the world

Spanish Colonization of Mexico



You are leading a ‘normal’ life. You go to school, hang out with your friends, play sport and watch various types of entertainment. You are surrounded by friends and family, you practice the religion of your people, and you call the place you live in ‘your’ home.
One day, invaders come. They do not speak any language you know. Their technology is far superior to yours. Over time, strange diseases break out. There is fighting between the newcomers and your government. The newcomers want your land and its resources. They call your religion and your customs ‘wrong’ or immoral. Eventually, you and your friends and family are enslaved or killed. Life as you know it has completely changed.

Human history is made up of stories of dominance and bloodshed. Such stories began long before science made it possible to find ‘new’ lands. However, it was developments in technology (such as the compass and map making tools) that enabled the last remaining lands to be opened to the west.
During any period of colonization, those who invaded often justified their behavior as a necessary act, necessary for ‘God, King or Country’ or because the ‘Emperor demanded it’. They ruthlessly dealt with resistance and both consciously and unconsciously changed the lives of the indigenous peoples of those invaded lands forever.

The aim of this section of the unit is to investigate the impact of such actions on indigenous populations.


Class discussion
Consider perceptions of the past:

"A wild people fit for any work, well proportioned, and very intelligent, and who when they got rid of their cruel habits to which they have become accustomed, will be better than any kind of slaves."
(Columbus, writing about the fierce Caribs who likely wiped out his first settlement of 39 men on the north coast of Haiti.)

What does this quote imply about the way Columbus viewed the Caribs? Did he view them as equals?

I am one of the Mission Children

Question Time

Can anyone answer my question
What did I ever do wrong?
Why did you take me from my parents
When I was only young

You took me in a black car
With balloons all hanging out
Just me and my brother
We didn’t know what this was all about

We didn’t have a mother
To cuddle and kiss good-night
We didn’t have a father
To teach us man’s way in life

A mother and father’s love
We never ever shared
Will someone answer our questions
Or are some people scared?

- Fred Clark

Rabbit Proof Fence: Connections

You have examined the impact of colonization on one indigenous population through our study of Rabbit Proof Fence. Let's review that information first.


  1. Identify 2 impacts of the Protection Policy on the Australian aborigines in Western Australia.
  2. Did white law benefit the Australian aborigines in that region? Explain.


Compare and Contrast

In order to compare and contrast the experiences of the three girls in Rabbit Proof Fence with that of other indigenous peoples across the world, we now need to look more closely at the history of these peoples.
Focus Questions
global-citizen » Impact of contact between different cultures

  1. What is ‘The Stolen Generation’?
  2. Did this only happen in Australia?

To analyze how the film reflects the heritage, traditions, attitudes, and beliefs of its author

Review the article and stories of people on the following site.
Source: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing Them Home,
What are the similarities and differences between their experiences. Identify at least 2 of each.
Write your answer in expository format, following correct paragraph structure.

Modern Day Connection: How the past affects our present and our future

This is one of our enduring understandings for this unit. In Rabbit Proof Fence you learned how the Australian government between the years 1869 and 1969. This policy resulted in what is now called "The Stolen Generation."

The Stolen Generations

The 'Stolen Generations' are the generations of Aboriginal children taken away from their families by governments, churches and welfare bodies to be brought up in institutions or fostered out to white families.
Removing children from their families was official government policy in Australia until 1969. However, the practice had begun in the earliest days of European settlement, when children were used as guides, servants and farm labour. The first 'native institution' at Parramatta in 1814 was set up to 'civilise' Aboriginal children.
The Aborigines Protection Board was established and oversaw the mass dislocation of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands onto reserves and stations. Aboriginal girls in particular were sent to homes established by the Board to be trained for domestic service.
In 1909 the Aborigines Protection Act gave the Aborigines Protection Board legal sanction to take Aboriginal children from their families. In 1915, an amendment to the Act gave the Board power to remove any child without parental consent and without a court order.(1)
It is not known precisely how many Aboriginal children were taken away between 1909 and 1969, when the Aborigines Welfare Board (formerly the Aborigines Protection Board) was abolished. Poor record keeping, the loss of records and changes to departmental structures have made it almost impossible to trace many connections.
Almost every Aboriginal family has been affected in some way by the policies of child removal. Taking children from their families was one of the most devastating practices since white settlement and has profound repercussions for all Aboriginal people today.

On February 12, 2008 the Australian government officially apologized to the Aboriginal communities for the Aborigines Protection Act and other such acts that gave the government the right to remove children from their homes.

This is the official apology from the Australian government.


"Today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
"We reflect on their past mistreatment.
"We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.
"The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
"We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
"We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
"To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
"And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
"We, the Parliament of Australia, respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered, as part of the healing of the nation.
"For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
"We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
"A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
"A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
"A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
"A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
"A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

You have now seen Rabbit Proof Fence and read the stories of people who were taken away. You have also seen the apology made by the Australian government in February of 2008 to the Aboriginal people of Australia. In paragraph form write a response to the following questions.

What is your reaction? Do you think the government was right to make this apology? Why or why not? Do you think this makes up for the past that was done to the Aboriginal people? Is the apology enough or is it too little too late? Imagine yourself at your same age as an Aboriginal Australian today in Australia, what would you think about the governments actions? How might you be affected by these past events? Do you think that current generations should recognize past mistakes?

Stolen Generations

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Australia, Bringing Them Home

Focus Question
What are the similarities and differences between the experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world?

Source 1
What indigenous people experienced in Australia

Source 2
What Indigenous people experienced in Canada

Source 3
What Indigenous people experienced in New Zealand

Source 4
What Indigenous people experienced in South Africa

'Jigsaw' activity

Step 1
You will be divided into 4 groups.
Each group will be assigned one of the above resources and will become an 'expert' on the experiences of Indigenous peoples within that country.

Read, discuss and create individual notes on the following questions:
(Use our modified Cornell system of note-taking)
  • How did governments regard the children of Indigenous peoples? (identify 3 key actions)
  • Have these perceptions changed over time?

Step 2
Form new groups containing at least 1 expert from each of the previous groups.
Each expert must present their findings to the group.

Summarizing information
Compare and contrast the experiences of Indigenous peoples within 2 of the countries we have looked at.
  • Choose 2 countries
  • Identify at least 2 similarities and 2 differences.
  • Write your answer in expository essay format, following correct paragraph structure.
  • Use only the information provided in the above sources

Summary: Class discussion and reflection on the focus questions

Indigenous Peoples: The Impact of Colonization

The Lakota Sioux

Focus Question
When examining the history of the Lakota Sioux, in what ways have cultural values and beliefs affected relations among individuals and groups?


Source 1

A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky ... we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came...They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.
(Crazy Horse, as remembered by Charles A. Eastman)

Source 2
Read the story of Lt. Colonel George Custer and The Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876

Source 3

" are not a great chief of this have no following, no power, no control, and no right to any control. You are on an Indian reservation merely at the suffrance of the government. You are fed by the government, clothed by the government, your children are educated by the government, and all you have and are today is because of the government. If it were not for the government you would be freezing and starving in the mountains...The government feeds you and clothes you and educates your children now, and desires to teach you to become farmers, and to civilize you, and make you as white men."
Senator John Logan speaking to Chief Sitting Bull of the Teton Sioux
Dawes Commission hearing at Standing Rock, Dakota
August 22, 1883

Brown, Dee, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian history of the American West, Vintage, London, 1970 (pp 425-6)

Source 4

Chief Red Cloud’s farewell speech to the Lakota people on July 4, 1903
"My sun is set. My day is done. Darkness is stealing over me. Before I lie down to rise no more, I will speak to my people. Hear me, my friends, for it is not the time for me to tell you a lie. The Great Spirit made us, the Indians, and gave us this land we live in. He gave us the buffalo, the antelope, and the deer for food and clothing. We moved our hunting grounds from the Minnesota to the Platte and from the Mississippi to the great mountains. No one put bounds on us. We were free as the winds, and like the eagle, heard no man's commands. I was born a Lakota and I shall die a Lakota. Before the white man came to our country, the Lakotas were a free people. They made their own laws and governed themselves as it seemed good to them. The priests and ministers tell us that we lived wickedly when we lived before the white man came among us. Whose fault was this? We lived right as we were taught it was right. Shall we be punished for this? I am not sure that what these people tell me is true. As a child I was taught the Taku Wakan (Supernatural Powers) were powerful and could do strange things. This was taught me by the wise men and the shamans. They taught me that I could gain their favor by being kind to my people and brave before my enemies; by telling the truth and living straight; by fighting for my people and their hunting grounds. When the Lakotas believed these things they were happy and they died satisfied. What more than this can that which the white man offers us give? "

Source 5
The Methamphetamine problem in Indian country

Source 6
Suicide and American Indian Youth

Source 7
The issue of alcohol and other substance abuse is significant to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. The death rates associated with alcoholic cirrhosis and other direct alcohol diseases for AI/AN are well above general U.S. population. In addition, injuries are the leading cause of death for AI/AN=s between the ages of 15 and 44 years. The majority of these deaths, whether intentional (such as suicide and homicide) or unintentional (such as motor vehicle crashes) are associated with alcohol and other chemical abuse...

While the death rate due to alcoholism has declined 17% since 1980, current data shows that this downward trend has stopped. Since 1990, the rate has been rising and is now 7 times greater than the U.S. All Races rate. These deaths are preventable, but only through a comprehensive program of medical, behavioral, and preventive services. In fact, the evidence suggests that comprehensive community wide efforts (including medical treatment programs) are the most appropriate approach to prevention.
Statement on S.1507: Native American Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Consolidation Act by Michel E. Lincoln
Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs , October 13, 1999

Source 8
Debating on an official apology from the US federal government to Native Americans

Source 9
Will Congress apologize to Native Americans?

Mexico and the United States

19%- percentage of the US population that is projected to be foreign-born in 2050, compared with 12 percent in 2205.
Source: Pew Research Center

Focus Question

When examining the history of Mexican Americans, in what ways have cultural values and beliefs affected relations among individuals and groups?


Step 1
You will be divided into groups in order to work together and help each other.
Open up the word document below.
Read each of the sources below and answer the relevant questions.
Print out your answers.

Step 2
In your groups now discuss the following question:

After reading the above sources, what picture do you have of the relationships between Mexican and other Latino Americans and the United States? How do you think these past events affect the current situation of Latinos in the United States?

Summarizing information
Write a persuasive paragraph based on the question above. Make sure to include references to specific articles (this means use a quote from an article) and cite your sources!!!!

Manifest Destiny
"In 1845 John L. O'Sullivan, editor of the Democratic Review, referred in his magazine to America's "Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." One of the most influential slogans ever coined, "manifest destiny" expressed the romantic emotion that led Americans to risk their lives to settle the Far West...
Aggressive nationalists invoked the idea to justify Indian removal, war with Mexico, and American expansion into Cuba and Central America...
Westward Expansion, Digital History: Online Textbook,


Source 1

An interactive timeline of the history of the border region between Mexico and the US

Source 2
Examining The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Read more about the treaty here

"Within a generation the Mexican-Americans became a disenfranchised, poverty-stricken minority"
Richard Griswold del Castillo

Source 3

Trailer for a documentary about a Chicano civil rights leader who demanded the return of land in the Southwest and a series of violent events in northern New Mexico during the 1960s.

Source 4
The US/Mexico Border

Source 5
Immigration Reform: From 'American Dream' to 'Latino Nightmare'

Source 6
The Chicano Movement
Timeline of Chicano Movement

Crystal City School
"In 1969, escalating anger among Mexican-American high school students and their families provided the political opening that led to the 1970 takeover. Although the student population was overwhelmingly Mexican-American, the student organizations were dominated by Anglos. Furthermore, dropout rates for Mexican-American students were many times that of Anglos. In 1969, anger crystallized over the highly symbolic and openly racist selection of cheerleaders and a homecoming queen. Mexican-American students walked out. Gutiérrez organizers and others from MAYO helped to provide focus to and support for the student protests, creating structures and accessing outside support to counter attempts at co-optation and demobilization by the Anglo elite."

Film Questions on Mexican American Experience

The rights of Indigenous Peoples today

What is the role of the United Nations? Read more about it here.

Respect for the Principles of National Sovereignty
Resolution passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations
27 February, 1996

The Rights of Indigenous Peoples
United Nations cyberschoolbus



Indigenous Peoples' Earth Charter