Grade Levels: 9 – 12

Lesson Overview:
Students will explore the life and legacy of səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Chief Dan George through video, primary and secondary source texts and images. They will undertake a critical assessment of his historical significance.

Applied Historical Thinking Concepts:

  • Establish historical significance
  • Use primary source evidence
  • Identify continuity and change
  • Take historical perspectives

Learning Outcomes:
Knowledge of Chief Dan George, a local community leader.

Evidence will be gathered to discuss Chief Dan George’s historical significance.

Looking at perspectives will encourage discussion of continuity and change.

Time Required: 90 minutes

Technical Needs:

  • Computer, internet connection and projector
  • Student computers with internet connection for group work

Painting: by Lorraine Fenkner, Courtesy Carol Lord with photo by Tazim Damji, NVMA Volunteer.

Chief Dan George: Actor & Activist Online Program

This program was inspired by the exhibit, Chief Dan George: Actor & Activist, which was on display at the Museum of North Vancouver from June 2017 to April 2018. This exhibit was about the life and legacy of səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Chief Dan George (1899-1981) and his influence as an Indigenous rights advocate and his career as an actor. The exhibit was developed in close collaboration with the George family and other members of the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation.

1. Introduction (30 minutes)

səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Chief Dan George is noted for his work in a number of fields. The primary intent of this online program is to gain knowledge of his life and its impact. We will use a number of Historical Thinking Concepts, but will focus on analyzing Chief Dan George’s historical significance through photos, video and documents.

To become familiar with program content, it is recommended that teachers fully review both the background information provided in the student version of Activity One as well as Teacher’s Answer Sheet (Activity One).

Exploring Historical Significance

  • The past is everything that ever happened to anyone anywhere. There is too much history to remember all of it. So how do we make choices about what is worth remembering? Significant events include those that resulted in great change over long periods of time for large numbers of people. These include a large phenomenon like the Depression or a war, or a social movement like health care.
  • What are the criteria used for determining if a person is historically significant? It is generally thought that a significant person has created change for a large number of people over a long period of time. They may also reveal something about historical issues and trends. (Examples: Terry Fox, Rick Hansen, Phyllis Munday).
  • What is historical significance? It is the process through which historians evaluate which events/people/places are ‘important’ and therefore are formally remembered. What resources might an historian use to the determine historical significance of an individual?

Classroom Instructions

  • Let the students share their ideas about what historical significance is and provide examples of historically significant individuals.  Record key words on the white board.
  • Explain to your students that for this program, we are using the example of Chief Dan George to discuss historical significance.
  • This is a also good time to ask the students, if anyone in the class is related to Chief Dan George or is a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) or səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We recommend that these students are recognized and actively involved in any discussions about their communities and culture. It should be noted that Chief Dan George was connected to both communities through family ties.
  • View the Chief Dan George: Actor and Activist Video.  This was prepared by MONOVA for its 2017 exhibition and provides an orientation to the life and legacy of Chief Dan George.

2. Student Group Activities (40 minutes)

  • Ask students to work on an activity of their choice in small groups. Each activity will deal with the question of Chief Dan George’s historical significance.
  • All groups will need access to a computer with internet connection.


  1. Chief Dan George in Photos – Visual Analysis
    The students will explore in detail Chief Dan George’s life and legacy by analyzing eight photos. Together these images provide evidence for Chief Dan George’s historical significance. Each image is accompanied with questions and background information. (See Teacher’s Answer Sheet for Activity One)
  2. Life and Legacy – Research Analysis
    Students will read the ‘Chief Dan George’s Life and Legacy’ and select 3 relevant images from Activity One. Students will summarize their thoughts of Chief Dan George’s historical significance as illustrated in the materials.
  3. ‘Lament for Confederation’ – Class Discussion
    Students will read, watch and discuss the speech which Chief Dan George delivered to 32,000 people celebrating Canada’s 100th birthday at Empire Stadium in Vancouver in 1967.  Students will discuss the speech and its continued relevance.
  4. 50 Years Later – Directed Discussion
    Students will review and discuss two recent articles about the continued relevance of Chief Dan George’s ‘Lament for Confederation’. One argues that much progress has been made in the past 50 years; the other makes the opposite claim.

3. Conclusion (20 minutes)

Encourage discussion of the students’ findings, centered on this question:

  • What evidence have you found to support the claim that Chief Dan George was a person of historical significance? (Teachers: see Teachers Answer Sheet, Image 8 for more information).

To finish the program on a personal note, ask your students to jot down their final thoughts on one of these questions:

  1. In your view, what is Chief Dan George’s primary legacy?
  2. Has Chief Dan George’s life and legacy made an impression on you? In what way?

Curriculum Connections

Big Ideas
Social Studies 9 & 10
  • Disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies.
  • World views lead to different perspectives and ideas about developments in Canadian society.
  • Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society.
Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12
  • Indigenous peoples are reclaiming mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being despite the continuing effects of colonialism.
  • Indigenous peoples continue to advocate and assert rights to self-determination.
Social Studies 9 & 10
  • The continuing effects of imperialism and colonialism on Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.
  • Discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada.
  • Truth and reconciliation in Canada.
Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12
  • Factors that sustain and challenge the identities and world views of Indigenous peoples.
  • The resilience and survival of Indigenous peoples in the face of colonialism.
Curricular Competencies (Skills)
Social Studies 9 & 10
  • Gather, interpret and analyze ideas and communicate findings.
  • Assess the significance of people, places, events, or developments, and compare varying perspectives on their historical significance at particular times and places, and from group to group.
  • Assess how underlying conditions and the actions of individuals or groups influence events, decisions, or developments, and analyze multiple consequences.
Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12
  • Assess and compare the significance of the interconnections between people, events, and developments at a particular time and place, and determine what they reveal about issues in the past and present.
  • Compare and contrast continuities and changes for different groups in different time periods and places.
  • Assess how underlying conditions and the actions of individuals or groups affect events, decisions, and developments, and analyze multiple consequences.
  • Explain different perspectives on past or present people, places, issues, and events by considering prevailing norms, values, world views, and beliefs.
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