So what the heck is the Indian Act and why do I keep hearing about it?
So what the heck is the Indian Act and why do I keep hearing about it? The Indian Act is a CURRENT piece of legislation, which seeks to continue the extermination of Indigenous people’s ways in so-called "Canada."
Many have referred to it as an assimilation oriented piece of legislation; I would argue that it goes beyond that and seeks to erase us as a people.
I recommend you take the time to really dig deep into this in order to fully understand the historical impact and ongoing impact of the Indian Act. This is simply a few points to get you started.
The Indian Act started in 1867 and became the official Indian Act in 1876 when it incorporated both the gradual civilization act and the gradual enfranchisement act (more on this later) into it. Although it would take pages and pages to really dig into this, here are a few aspects in that were in the Indian Act at the time:
removal of traditional government and forced participation in the current Chief and counsel elected government
removal of Indigenous women’s rights in all ways
implementation of Indian Agents as the sole authority on reserve
abolition of all traditional practises
forced removal of Indian status for a multitude of reasons
making all Indigenous peoples wards of the state
limiting economic independence
removing right to gather in crowds
removing right to enter public spaces
removing right to obtain a lawyer
removing right to have any alcohol substance in their possession.
Again, this is not a complete list.
There were amendments done to the Indian Act in 1951 and 1986, where the most atrocious human rights violations were removed; however, the Indian Act looks very much today as it did in the 1800s and continues to control Indian status, land use, government systems, and much more. It continues to have us, as Indigenous peoples, controlled by a foreign government (Canada) and extinguishes our inherent rights to sovereignty.
A few terms to know and explore:
Enfranchisement: the process by which the government takes away Indian status. In the early days, this was if you were a veteran, had a post secondary education, or were an Indigenous woman who married a non-status man. Although amendments to this have been made, there are still many who are unable to access their Indian status because of these historical events. These means the government of Canada has no responsibility to these non-status Indigenous peoples.
Chief and Council: The Indian Act eliminated all traditional forms of government and required bands to have an elected chief and counsel. These people are limited in their control over their nations in many ways. As well, they are considered Government of Canada employees. True self government only comes at the elimination of the Indian Act government system.