Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Canadian History


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Lianne Leddy

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Nelson Small Legs Junior aimed a shotgun at his heart and pulled the trigger in the late afternoon on 16 May 1976. Nelson killed himself in protest of the mishandling of Indigenous affairs by the Canadian federal government. Did this individual protest impact policy change? Did Nelson die in vain? Did Nelson’s commitment create renewed activism in the Indigenous community in Canada? We may never know the answers to these questions. However, Nelson’s suicide brings many questions to light. What were the living conditions of Indigenous people during the 1970s? What was the state of western First Nations activism leading up to Nelson’s suicide? This paper reconstructs the story of Indigenous activism 1972-1976 by examining three newspapers, the Native Youth Movement (NYM), The Native Voice (TNV) and The Native People (TNP). By linking these three newspapers, the overarching themes of 1970s Indigenous activism are explored. In addition, Indigenous men and women continue to face similar barriers in education, housing and drug and alcohol abuse. The decade in question informs our understanding of barriers today. On one hand, Indigenous people continue to make strides but on the other, the problems discussed in this paper have compounded to create new but related issues. Nelson Small Legs Junior and his cause continue to hold relevance in 2017.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season