Main Body

The Story of Elijah Harper

Learning Goals

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Understand and use new vocabulary words
  • Use synonym clues to understand a text
  • Make inferences about a text
  • Write contractions
  • Use some common homonyms
  • Write a paragraph that describes your strengths

Totem pole

Get Ready to Read

  • Do you know whose traditional land you are on?
  • What do you know about the history and culture of the First Nations people where you live?


Figure out what the bold word means by looking at how it is used in the sentence. Match it to the best meaning.
1. They lived on a reserve in Manitoba called Red Sucker Lake. a. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis
2. Elijah Harper was the first Aboriginal MLA in the history of Manitoba. b. A small piece of land the government forced First Nations people to live on
3. Elijah Harper inspired a new wave of First Nations people to take part in politics. c. Organized actions taken by people working together to achieve something
4. He paved the way for movements like Idle No More, which was just getting started when he passed away. d. Affected someone in a good way
Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.
Write an answer for each question using the word in bold. Write in complete sentences.
  1. Who inspires you to be your best self?
  2. Do you know of any Aboriginal people in government?
  3. Have you ever been part of a movement?
Ask your instructor to check your work.

Word Attack Strategy

Word Patterns

When you see a word that you do not understand, look in the sentences around it for clues. Sometimes a writer will give you a definition or synonym. A synonym is a word with almost the same meaning.

Find the synonyms for the words in bold.

1. Raven tried to calculate, or figure out, how much of a tip to leave the server.

The synonym for calculate is ________________________.

2. The music was too loud for Ted to concentrate, or focus, on his homework.

The synonym for concentrate is ________________________.

3. I like TV shows that mock, or make fun of, people in government.

The synonym for mock is ________________________.

4. The Gum Chewing Club had an annual, or yearly, contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble.

The synonym for annual is ________________________.

5. I was furious, or angry, when the Canucks lost their tenth game in a row.

The synonym for furious is ________________________.

Now look at the reading for this lesson. Find the words in bold.

6. The synonym for residential school is ________________________.

7. The synonym for heathen is ________________________.

8. The synonym for MLA is ________________________.

9. The synonym for bill is ________________________.

Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.

Use Your Reading Skills

Read The Story of Elijah Harper in your reader. Return to this page when you are done.

Check Your Understanding

Find the Topic and Main Idea

1. What is the topic of this text?

a. Elijah Harper

b. First Nations people

c. The Manitoba government

2. What is the main idea of this text?

a. This text is about the disadvantages of residential schools.

b. This text tells the story of how Elijah Harper stood up for First Nations people’s rights.

c. This text is about how to become an MLA.

3. What did Elijah do to stand up for the rights of First Nations people?
Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.
4. Using your answers above, write a short summary of this text. Include the topic, main idea, and one supporting detail.
Ask your instructor to check your work.

Making Inferences

Readers make educated guesses, based on what they know and what they have experienced. This is called making inferences.

We make inferences all the time. For example, when you go to a friend’s house and there are no lights on, you might infer that they are not home.

When a classmate comes into the classroom with wet hair and clothes, you might infer that it is raining outside.

Think about the situations below. Make an inference.
Situation Inference
1. The next time you see your friend, she has a sunburn. Why do you think she has a sunburn?
2. You brought salad to a potluck. It got eaten quickly. Why do you think the salad was eaten so quickly?
Think about these parts of the text. Make an inference.
Situation Inference
3. Many of Elijah’s classmates tried to run away from the residential school. Why do you think many of his classmates tried to run away?
4. Elijah was holding an eagle feather when he voted against the prime minister’s bill. Why do you think Elijah held an eagle feather?
5. The reading says that Elijah paved the way for movements like Idle No More, which was just getting started when he passed away in 2013. What do you think Idle No More is?
Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.


Review Possessive Apostrophes

Idle No More is a movement that started in Saskatchewan. This movement protests many things.

There are six possessive apostrophes missing below. Can you find them?

1. People in government are not protecting the Earths wellbeing.

2. Companies get rich from fishing, logging, and mining on First Nations land. The companies profits are not shared with First Nations people.

3. The reserves schools do not have enough money to provide a good education.

4. Many reserves do not have a nearby doctors office or hospital. People cannot get health care.

5. First Nations peoples daughters, sisters, and mothers go missing in large numbers. The government has not acted to stop violence against Aboriginal women.

Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.


In the last chapter, you used an apostrophe to show who owns what. You can also use an apostrophe to write a contraction, a short form of a word. Here are some examples from the reading:

With a Contraction Without a Contraction
First Nations people weren’t allowed to vote or be in government. First Nations people were not allowed to vote or be in government.
First Nations rights couldn’t be ignored any longer. First Nations rights could not be ignored any longer.
It didn’t mention the role of First Nations people in building Canada. It did not mention the role of First Nations people in building Canada.

Grammar Rule

This chart shows some common contractions:

Meaning Contraction Meaning Contraction

I am

they are

I will

they will

I would

they have

I have

there is

you are

are not

you will

was not

you have

were not

he is/he has

will not

he will

would not

he would/had





















she is

could not

she will

did not

she would/had

does not

we are

do not

we will

had not

we would/had

has not

we have

is not

it is/has

should not


















Read this paragraph. Change the words in brackets to contractions.

The Indian Act is a law that decides who counts as an Aboriginal person. (It has) _____________(1) existed since 1876. At first, the Indian Act said that any Aboriginal woman who married a man who (was not) _____________(2) Aboriginal would lose her Indian status. This meant that she (could not) _____________(3) live on reserve anymore. She (could not) _____________(4) be a member of her band, so she (was not) _____________(5) allowed to vote on reserve. Her kids would also lose these rights. They (were not) _____________(6) allowed to go to school on reserve, either. If an Aboriginal man married a non-Aboriginal woman, he (did not) _____________(7) lose these rights. Many Aboriginal women tried to fix this injustice through the courts. This (did not) _____________(8) work. So they turned to the United Nations. The UN did a study and said Canada was guilty of ignoring many rights of Aboriginal people. The government said (they would) _____________(9) fix the Indian Act, but they (did not) ____________(10). Aboriginal women fought for change by forming groups, giving speeches, and writing letters. In 1985, the government finally changed the Indian Act. The change gave status back to all the women who were born with status and had lost it.

Check your work with the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.


These contractions are homonyms. Remember, homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

you’re he’ll we’ll it’s
your heal wheel its
Use the best word to complete each sentence.

1. Keep both hands on the steering ___________________________.

2. At this time next week, ___________________________ be in Cuba!

3. Is this ___________________________ coat?

4. I think ___________________________ going to be a great dad.

5. Mike is coming, but ___________________________ be late.

6. I hope my burn will ___________________________ quickly.


Describe your Strengths

A sacred bundle is something carried by some Aboriginal people that holds spiritual items, medicines, and tools for helping themselves and others.

In the image of the bundle below, add words that describe some of your skills, special gifts, or talents. Think about how these help you as a learner. Think about how these allow you to help others.

sacred bundle

Writing Task

Use your words from above to write a paragraph describing your strengths. Try to include some contractions in your writing.

When you are done, use this checklist to edit your paragraph:

  • Did I begin with a topic sentence that says what I am writing about?
  • Did I include details about what my strengths are?
  • Did I end with a concluding sentence?
  • Do all of my sentences have a subject and a verb?
  • Did I use contractions correctly?
  • Did I check my spelling with a dictionary?

Ask your instructor to check your work.

Answer Key

1 b
2 a
3 d
4 c
Word Attack Strategy
1 figure out
2 focus
3 make fun of
4 yearly
5 angry
6 boarding school
7 godless people
8 member of the government
9 idea for a new law
Check Your Understanding  
Find the Topic and Main Idea
1 a
2 b
3 He voted against a bill that did not respect the role of First Nations people in making Canada. It didn’t protect First Nations languages and cultures.
Making Inferences
1 Maybe she just came back from a holiday somewhere warm.
2 Maybe the salad was really delicious.
3 They probably strongly disliked being at residential school and missed their families.
4 The eagle feather may have reminded him of his culture and given him strength.
5 Idle No More is a movement to get fair treatment for Aboriginal people.
Review Possessive Apostrophes
1 Earth’s
2 First Nations’ land, companies’ profits
3 reserves’ schools
4 doctor’s office
5 people’s daughters
1  It’s
2 wasn’t
3 couldn’t
4 couldn’t
5 wasn’t
6 weren’t
7 didn’t
8 didn’t
9 they’d
10 didn’t
1 wheel
 2 we’ll
3 your
4 you’re
5 he’ll
6 heal


Totem pole
Totem Pole by werner22brigitte is in the public domain.